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Where healthcare innovation may lead in 2018

Nancy Hanrahan, professor and dean of the School of Nursing and senior associate dean of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

This story is part of our multi-part series looking at some of the big stories and bright ideas primed to make headlines in 2018.

Where will healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship lead in 2018? Nancy Hanrahan, professor and dean of the School of Nursing at Northeastern, has a few ideas.

Deliver care in the moment, no matter the location

Health startups and businesses will increasingly find ways to affordably deliver care and resources to patients where they are in the moment, Hanrahan said, whether it be at home, at school, or just out and about.

Hanrahan, senior associate dean of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, says the trends are already pointing this way. One indicator is the growth of urgent care clinics in recent years. People are extremely busy, she says, and they want products and services that meet their needs. Healthcare is no exception.

Another indicator, Hanrahan says, is what she hears from startups and businesses through her work with industry at healthcare hackathons and entrepreneurship events, and through consultation provided to these startups and businesses by the School of Nursing. She says startups and businesses are particularly interested in nurses’ expertise because these professionals work so closely with patients in a variety of settings.

“It’s going to be about how we get directly to them and give them technology to access healthcare themselves,” she says.

Music technology and AI

Hanrahan says in 2018 she also foresees the expansion of technology and artificial intelligence designed for the aging population. She’s fascinated by recent developments in AI and robots that offer assistance and comfort to people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Another area is music technology that improves seniors’ health. “This will be a hot item,” she says.

Making health apps sustainable

Interest in technologies such wearable health devices has also surged in recent years, and many of the latest gear and gadgets were on display this week in Las Vegas at CES 2018, a global innovation showcase.

Hanrahan, though, noted that more work needs to be done to unleash the full potential of another popular technology: health apps. In her view, they’re not quite sustainable yet.

“Finding that magic that gets people to habituate with the use of technology like an app is still unknown,” she says. “One nut we’ll need to crack is how to create sustainable health technologies that people want to use over the long term.”