How has digital transformation empowered healthcare? 2020 is the year that helped several leaders in the healthcare sector give convincing answers to this question.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw nearly every sector that served the public gearing up to deliver more services via digital channels than ever before. Healthcare was no different in this regard. From virtual consultation to remote diagnosis via smart wearables, there was a barrage of digital innovations that became mainstream during the pandemic.
Why Digital Transformation in Healthcare was Imminent
There was a huge influx of interest from consumers for digital friendliness in the healthcare sector even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
For instance, the healthcare wearable market size was predicted to reach a peak of USD 46.6 Billion by 2025!
In 2019, nearly 1 billion questions or searches on health happened every day in Google search, which is nearly 7% of all search volumes combined on the world’s most popular search engine.
More people relied on technology and information services from digital channels to learn more about their medical conditions and make decisions on treatments, even without paying a visit to the nearest clinic. For healthcare providers, this scenario required them to invest in innovative digital technology to stay competitive and meet the needs of tech-savvy consumers.
Fast forward to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic created an even greater push for accelerated digital transformation in healthcare. The outcomes of the pandemic, mainly lockdowns and long periods of indoor quarantines, threw light on the need for a more dynamic care delivery ecosystem where patients could get help from literally anywhere rather than just from a hospital or medical facility.
On this note, let us examine four digital transformation trends in healthcare that are gradually evolving into a mainstream component of modern healthcare services.
The Connected Economy
Cisco claims that by 2025, there will be more than 75 billion connected devices on the planet being used in almost all walks of life, from personal fitness to entertainment, work, and intelligent mobility.
Healthcare also needs to embark on this trend by focusing on creating more applications and digital services that are open to be extended in capability by connecting with personal consumer devices such as smartphones and wearables as well as remote diagnostic and monitoring tools. Not only this, they need to create frameworks, standards, and policies governing the development of API’s, connection interfaces, data exchange, and security because the entire system works by communicating sensitive patient data and any lapse or data theft may result in huge penalties depending on the severity of the fault.
Forrester research estimates that nearly 1 billion online doctor visits may happen in the US in 2020 alone – primarily driven by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on free movement of people.
But the study also pointed out that only 24% of US healthcare organizations had an active virtual care program that existed before the pandemic as in January 2020. The rest have a huge amount of catchup to do in this area, and it is not just about setting up an appointment platform that does the job of facilitating virtual care, but healthcare organizations need to build an entire ecosystem having suppliers for various services that are part of virtual care.
A few examples include delivery partners for supplies and medicine delivery to customers, infrastructure installation for remote monitoring and diagnostics of patients, platforms to capture and visualize insights obtained through connected medical devices from patients, and much more. In fact, they need to create a comprehensive network of care delivery to enable patients to realize value from their online medical consultations.
Healthcare professionals often need to make decisions and inferences from patient data in split seconds for critical conditions. Additionally, there are a lot of mundane data entry and transcription jobs that are manually carried out for back-end office work, insurance claims, and much more.
Intelligent automation using AI and Machine Learning can bring in a huge difference in this regard. From helping generate insights swiftly from vast data sets to helping record and transcribe statements and care procedures through intelligent voice assistants, there are tons of applications that can leverage the power of artificial intelligence to bolster digital transformation in healthcare.
Pharmaceutical Research Acceleration
The COVID-19 pandemic is a classic example of how technology has helped shorten the timelines for potential vaccine development. Many pharmaceutical companies, biomedical research institutes, and government health research facilities have come up with promising vaccine candidates in a matter of months rather than the years it usually takes.
This process of drug discovery and development was accelerated by big data analytics, AI, and Machine learning practices being applied in the study of chemical formulations. The message here is that more R&D efforts of healthcare organizations must focus on involving technology-enabled solutions in earlier stages to speed up the discovery of critical formulations, validating international criteria for drug development during clinical trials, and this will ultimately fast-track approvals from governing health bodies worldwide.
Digital transformation in healthcare is no longer an aspiration but a necessity in today’s interconnected world economy. COVID-19 was a wake-up call for many countries for not having set up a well-managed digital healthcare framework in their jurisdictions. Taking cues from lessons learned during the pandemic will help both governments as well as healthcare organizations to invest on the right digital channels and encourage continuous innovation in technology-driven care delivery mechanisms.