Health Care Changes in the Next Decade

healthThink the Affordable Care Act is the biggest change to happen to health care since the polio vaccine? Just wait. Health care is going to change dramatically in the next 10 years, in ways that are going to significantly benefit everyone.

Here are seven ways we predict health care will change in the next decade:

1. Handwashing protocols

Believe it or not, handwashing is still one of the biggest issues hospitals have not yet overcome. Simply put: doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff sometimes get so busy that they forget to wash their hands. Right now hospitals are addressing this with low-tech methods, such as wearable buttons that read “Ask me if I’ve washed my hands.” Expect handwashing protocols to go high tech in the next decade, perhaps with hand-level door sensors that flash if unwashed hands pass through.

2. Dentistry inclusion

The Affordable Care Act does not include dentist visits, although oral health is part of overall health and untreated tooth and gum-related illnesses can cause everything from blindness to cancer. Expect this to shift in the next 10 years, as more and more people demand free preventative dental visits to go along with their ACA preventative doctor checkups.

3. Computer assistance

EMR technology has helped revolutionize the way doctors track and monitor patients. Expect even more computer involvement in the future, from virtual diagnoses to at-home checkups. Imagine being able to do your yearly physical over Skype, or sending Siri a picture of a swollen throat and having her diagnose whether it’s strep or tonsillitis.

Read more about present day EMR advancements on

4. Crowdsourced diagnoses

We’ve already taken the first steps into the world of crowdsourced medicine; in addition to asking the hive mind to help solve difficult diagnoses, researchers have used the power of crowdsourced programmers to solve difficult biological problems, which are often structured like computational problems.

5. Longevity care

The earliest members of the Baby Boomer generation will turn 70 in 2016. Many of them will have no plans to retire, and still more will expect to live healthy lives for decades to come. Expect new advances in what we might term “longevity care,” to ensure that Boomers and future generations experience a high quality of life even in their senior years.

6. Eldercare

Of course, as Boomers inch into their 70s, they’re still often taking care of even older parents in their 90s. As lifespans get longer, some Americans can anticipate taking care of aging relatives for 20 or 30 years, with the initial caretaking requirement often falling during decades that might otherwise be devoted to careerbuilding.

As much as we love our family, few people want to become full-time caretakers. Health care–whether by improvements in nursing homes, new medications that allow seniors to stay active, or a push for subsidized in-home care staff–will have to address the eldercare issue in the next decade — or it is likely to spiral out of control.

7. New vaccines

The past decade saw the influenza vaccine and the HPV vaccine, among others. Who knows what vaccines will be developed in the next decade? The HIV vaccine, of course, is high on the list; it might also be possible to vaccinate against certain strains of rhinovirus, or the common cold.

These are only a handful of ways that health care is likely to change in the next decade. Expect to hear more about how to prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria, how to improve infant and maternal health, and how to better educate a growing population about preventing basic illnesses and maintaining good health. Of course, the biggest changes to medical technology and health care are likely to be the ones we can’t even imagine.

How do you expect health care to change in the next decade? Let us know in the comments.

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