Although still below historic levels, hospital margins moved in the right direction in 2023. Despite the challenges of labor shortages, payer reimbursement and drug costs, healthcare organizations saw increased revenue and decreased lengths of stay – both of which contributed to better operating margins. More than 85% of health systems are increasing their 2024 digital and IT budgets, and almost half project moderate to significant increases.

This period of relative stabilization presents an opportunity for health systems to renew their investment strategies for technology solutions with the potential to reimagine staff and patient experiences. Looking ahead, a longer-living and informed population, rapid advances in personalized wellness and therapeutics and the explosion of game-changing AI are just a few of the industry factors fueling healthcare technology decisions in 2024.

Generative AI

Many experts believe that generative AI (GenAI) is the single most significant innovation in computing history. The healthcare industry has seen remarkable advancements in machine learning, natural language processing and computer vision, but despite the transformative potential of these technologies, adoption remains low. With GenAI, the pendulum has swung quickly and far, as both technical and non-technical users discover its capacity to reduce administrative burdens and enhance clinical and operational workflows.

The potential for GenAI in healthcare is virtually limitless. It can automate and transform the patient, clinician, and staff experience, allow organizations to leverage the imploding volume of healthcare data and introduce previously unimaginable innovations to advance patient care. It is likely to be the most prominent healthcare technology trend of 2024. But health system leaders are also aware of the challenges generative AI faces in reaching mainstream use such, as, compliance concerns, use case prioritization, security risks, and patient safety. 

Senior care solutions

Senior care organizations, often overlooked in discussions about new technologies, are finally earning their seat at the innovation table. Fueled by a growing senior population, increased adoption of technology by people aged 65 or older and a shortage of caregivers, technology companies, big and small, are investing in eldercare solutions. Some solution that will be expanded upon in this market include:

  • Monitoring solutions, such as smart cameras armed with computer vision, to collect data and proactively detect things like fall risk (i.e. water or unexpected items on the floor), agitation, wandering and decreased or increased bathroom usage.
  • Automation solutions that free up staff for top of license work by removing routine, repeatable tasks. 
  • In-room, voice-enabled AI technology to enable self-service for tasks like phone calls, access to entertainment, reminders and control of environmental factors. 
  • Clinical workflow automation, on par with those deployed at health systems, to streamline time-consuming tasks such as documentation, nursing flowsheets and medication management for staff at senior care facilities.

Automation

As healthcare organizations grapple with labor shortages while trying to meet the demand for care, the pursuit of automation solutions remains a top priority. Health systems will continue to expand automation investments in areas such as advanced asset tracking, smart scheduling, robotic process automation and documentation.

AI-enabled automation is positioned to rise as organizations deploy technologies for smart hospitals, virtual patient assistants, personalized medicine decision support, imaging and pathology tools, ambient voice solutions and predictive interventions. In addition to clinical use cases, an increase in AI-enabled automation for operational workflows will continue to grow for areas such as omnichannel call centers, throughput optimization, staffing and supply chain management.

Cybersecurity

More than 100 million patient records have been breached in 2023, to date. In a recent survey of healthcare provider executives, 55% cited cybersecurity as their top investment priority in 2024. Organizations will continue to ramp up efforts in data security, threat detection and vulnerability management in the new year, as bad actors employ new technology and new tactics, such as GenAI, to target health systems. 

Healthcare organizations will increase adoption of cybersecurity tools and practices in the new year. The use of AI-based solutions to detect and react to threats will rise, as well. More organizations will adopt and expand on Zero Trust security, implementing multiple layers of security to protect patient data. 

We may also see an increased investment in network segmentation and asset management as the expansion of both medical and non-medical IoT solutions inside and outside hospital walls continues. As the gap between cybersecurity talent demand and supply widens – while the volume and intensity of cyber threats increase – organizations will ramp up investment in security automation solutions that free up valuable cybersecurity staff to handle growing workloads and focus on complex and strategic work.

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