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By 19 June 2020 | Categories: Thought Leadership

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By Tony Bartlett, Director Data Center Compute

Digital transformation within the healthcare industry has been lacking. Living in a digistised industrial age, we’ve seen sectors of varied shapes and sizes take advantage of the insights that larger data sets can provide.

Advancements in IT are unleashing new potential, allowing staff to better prioritise workloads and concentrate on how best to upskill employees. Bank statements are paperless, whilst retail and tourism are increasingly being done online. However, healthcare is behind the curve and clinicians have borne the brunt of inadequate IT systems creating productivity pressures.

True Transformation vs. Facade Upgrades

Whilst some progress has been made in digital healthcare, it hasn’t necessarily been transformational. In many cases it boils down to a simple conversion of analogue to electronic. eReferral, ePrescribing and eHealth records may have looked to have undergone revolutionary change, however in reality it’s merely transference of what was once analogue forms and processes into electronic versions of the same. And even then according to the Electronic Medical Record Adoption model, the shift from paper to digital is just 3% across Europe.

Within healthcare, many processes remain ripe for digital disruption - legacy IT and disparate systems within these environments are often working against the purpose they are implemented for. An example of this would be within one hospital, there could be several different systems for patient data creating interoperability issues and cracks in user adoption. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that culture and mind-set are big obstacles before digital transformation.

But more so for healthcare the biggest roadblock to true digital transformation is the high stakes that bring a cautious approach due to an ever-changing environment where downtime and security risks aren’t an option. 

Bringing digital transformation back to life

Healthcare organisations need to examine how to apply emerging digital technologies to improve care, reduce risks, and cut costs. If the healthcare industry wants to accelerate digital transformation, there is no question about it - they must effectively maximise health IT (HIT) by modernising technology, automating processes, and streamlining IT operations.

However, this won’t be achievable all at once and as such CIOs and CTOs need to create battle plans on how to achieve digitalisation. The first step is examining where you are now – what’s the integrity of your IT infrastructure and where technology can best support the areas which are lacking. That means upgrading infrastructure including servers, storage and networking to IT device demands from staff. 

It’s after this point you’ll be able to clearly see how to best apply rapidly emerging digital technologies from predictive analytics and artificial intelligent/ machine learning to wearables devices and the support needed from HIT vendors, specialists and partners.

The battle plan should also look at bringing the technology to life and how it will be received on the frontline. A step often forgotten, although the hardest part of digital transformation in healthcare is challenging peoples pre-existing routines and why they should go against the status quo. 

The future for healthcare is now

In the next 15 years the World Health Organisation expects to see a greater demand for clinicians due to growing and ageing populations. Despite this, we will be 18 million clinicians short of meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. If we’re to ensure that healthcare professionals are fully equipped to meet the demands of growing levels of patients care, technology will need to provide solutions, not distractions, to these very dilemmas.

Telemedicine, for example, can help address this problem by helping people get around-the-clock access to non-emergency medical advice at home. We can already see this materialising in South Africa, where pharmacies are starting to offer in-branch video consultation with doctors. If a health issue emerges in the middle of the night, telemedicine is on hand to give advice or to refer a patient to specialty care or A&E. It is cost-effective and accessible personalised care.

We’re already seeing some of the possibilities of telemedicine through wearable devices. We use them to track our quality of sleep, monitor our heart rate or populate with pre-existing medical conditions. Digital transformation, although complicated, can be as simple as implementing technology that is already widely utilised. Most of us have used phones that can track our steps, so using them to access apps providing remote consultations wouldn’t create adoption issues.

57% of companies think clinicians will be able to save 25% of their time thanks to predictive data analytics.

For time poor clinicians, AI will enable them to tackle interoperable data in order to meet the amassed demand for personalised healthcare. Furthermore, AI tools will enable doctors to take advantage of deep learning to detect diseases months before patients show symptoms, resulting in proactive rather than reactive healthcare. Imagine a world where genetic information and real-time data drawn can spot possible health issues before a trip to the doctors.

In this way, the future of healthcare means sustaining well-being as opposed to responding to ailments. This could mean walking into a bathroom and looking into a smart mirror with highly attuned sensors which detect blood pressure, heartrate and temperature. AI would know you have a high temperature due to the hot weather, and ML would detect if this is a normal occurrence. There will be more early diagnoses, and preventative measures will be paramount in healthcare plans.

Unsurprisingly, development for these use cases has skyrocketed in our current global climate.  From enabling data collection from these devices to be uploaded direct to a GPs health record would not only save time for clinicians, but they could make healthcare more accessible in the long-term, making it easier to seek remote medical advice.

Globally, healthcare is a multitrillion-dollar industry. Technology has the potential to change the way clinicians work and build next-generation clinics. Removing the technological barriers and additional time clinicians spend battling incumbent technology means more time for patient care and saving lives.

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