A decade ago, it would have been hard to imagine that technology like electronic medical records (EMRs) or patient portals would take hold so quickly. Yet between 2007 and 2017 physician EMR use jumped from roughly 30% to over 85%. Just as it has in the past, we can expect that emerging technology will become a common feature in the future doctor’s office.

As a physician, the question to ask is: What’s next on the horizon? What technology will be vital to your day-to-day operations in a decade? To be prepared for them then, start considering them today.

5 features that will define your future doctor’s office

Considering the range of technology that’s starting to take hold in healthcare, here are five predictions for the doctor’s office of 2030:

  1. Waiting rooms will be phased out
  2. More visits will happen virtually
  3. Doctors will leverage insights from wearable tech
  4. Smartphones will be everyday medical tools
  5. Patients will take ownership of their personal health data

1. Waiting rooms will be phased out

Nobody likes waiting rooms, especially not patients. Surveys show that how patients feel about their physician encounter and the quality of their care is directly related to their impression of their time in the waiting room. Research repeatedly shows that “longer waiting times are associated with lower quality satisfaction.”

One solution is to make the waiting room more inviting and engaging. There are certainly compelling examples of this. In fact, some predict that the future doctor’s office waiting room will be more like a coffee shop.

But a more likely outcome is that waiting rooms will be phased out, either mostly or completely. Patients will check-in and fill out pre-visit forms online, and providers will have that information when the patient arrives. Less time collecting background information means clinicians can focus entirely on the patient’s current ailment.

Some physicians are already using a combination of technology-enabled pre-visit work and excellent team coordination to eliminate waiting rooms in their practice.

2. More visits will happen virtually

We’ve seen a huge increase in telehealth in response to COVID-19. But even before the pandemic, healthcare organizations were expanding the use of this technology. In a 2019 survey over 96% of health systems said they planned to expand virtual care offerings in the next 12 months.

As providers and patients become more comfortable with telehealth technology, they’re realizing that many visits can be effectively conducted virtually. This saves patients time and reduces congestion in the office.

In the future, physicians will carefully discern before having a patient schedule an in-person visit. Some visit types – such as minor complaints, medication refills, or chronic disease check-ins – may happen mostly remotely.

3. Doctors will leverage insights from wearable tech

Wearable technology like fitness trackers and heart rate monitors are already popular among some patient groups. But this technology is increasingly gaining medical relevance. For example, patients with type 2 diabetes have increasing access to affordable continuous glucose monitoring systems for real-time biofeedback.

The next step is for patients to be able to plug this data into their medical record, and for doctors to have meaningful ways to use it. Over 60 million people already use a wearable device to track personal health data, and patients increasingly want their doctors to use that data to improve their care.

A recent survey from Software Advice found that 97% of patients are interested in sharing data collected by wearable medical devices with their providers.

4. Smartphones will be everyday medical tools

Nearly every U.S. doctor now owns a smartphone, and they’re finding valuable ways to use these devices at work. Smartphones make it easier for clinical teams to:

  • Communicate quickly
  • Coordinate care
  • Streamline clinical workflow
  • Quickly access the EHR

There’s also a growing list of software companies making smartphones the perfect supplement for clinical care. Whether you want to dictate clinical notes in real-time or document house call visits on the go, your mobile device is a simple solution.

9 out of 10 doctors already use their smartphones at work some of the time. By 2030 this use will be more consistent and formalized. Expect your clinical team to be using their smartphones to communicate, coordinate, and document care as they move about the office.

5. Patients will take ownership of their personal health data

According to a recent survey, 80% of patients want more control over their healthcare, but just 19% have access to their personal records. The next decade will see a shift toward greater patient ownership over personal health data.

One way this might develop is through shared decision making in the doctor-patient interaction. Patients often share a lot of detail during a visit, but much of this is lost during the note-taking process. This could be addressed by integrating systems that are often separate: patient intake surveys and the EMR.

For example, documentation in a future doctor’s office might look like this:

  1. Before a visit, the patient completes a series of questions with drop-down menus and comment boxes.
  2. This is automatically uploaded to the patient’s EMR where the doctor can review it prior to the visit.
  3. During the visit, the doctor reviews the narrative with the patient and ads to it as they see fit.
  4. This would allow the doctor to be more efficient and reduce their documentation burden. At the same time, the patient would be more engaged in self-assessment. This simple technology and workflow change could have a big impact on patient care.

Preparing for the future

Integrating new technology can be exciting but also daunting. To prepare for future developments, get involved in professional associations, listen to your patients, and embrace new technology. By keeping an open mind, you will continue learning and be better positioned in the future.

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