April 9, 2021

Turn on the television or open a newspaper and one is met with discussions on the ways digital transformation is set to alter the healthcare landscape in the coming years. A decade ago, this would have raised massive speculations as changes in healthcare industry are not widely adopted or acted upon quickly. While most of the health insurance payers are still operating on legacy systems, digital transformation has occupied a prime spot in healthcare modernization. Although most enterprise functions have jumped on the bandwagon the question most are asking now is - “What’s in store for us?”

Technologies like AI (Artificial Intelligence), blockchain, IoT (Internet of Things), AR (Augmented Reality)/VR (Virtual Reality), 5G, and quantum computing are the leading agenda milestones for businesses that have already adopted a digital-first paradigm. While industries at large are in the next phase of digital transformation, the pace of adoption in healthcare has been slow due to legacy systems with archaic architecture. Simply put, despite healthcare organizations constantly upgrading their application layers, they are working on an outdated data layer. Given the complex nature of data, any small deflection could impact patient lives. This is one of the main reason healthcare organizations are developing their cloud migration strategies, and data migration is the last area to be incorporated into the plan. Another reason is security due to the complex regulatory mandates in healthcare. Additionally, healthcare organizations want to avoid any penalties owing to security breaches.

The Drive to Digitalize

There has been a surge in digital adoption within healthcare recently. Key triggers for change include:

Mindset shift: Patients now want on-demand and value-based care. Technology and transparency of information, especially on the internet have empowered the customers with data and they want to see the precise healthcare spending and if it is offering value for their money.

Widespread use of Internet of Medical Things (IoMT): From USD 41 billion in 2017 to a valuation of USD 158 billion by 2022, the enormous growth of IoMT industry can drastically bring down in-person visits and aid self-monitoring. A glucose monitoring device that can help check blood sugar levels for a diabetes patient at home while a smart device can offer insights on the results for action is a good example. Additionally, there are thermometers that can help doctors make readings during a telehealth video call, while predictive analysis tools, AI bots plugged into IoMTs could help provide preventive care through recommendations and preferred actions.

The pandemic: With inpatient visits down by 22%, emergency visits by 42%, and outpatient visits by 35%, the healthcare ecosystem has incurred a revenue shortage of USD 350 billion as per a recent Forrester report. Here, digitalization helped institutions with service continuity through telehealth and remote care. Government policy changes to encourage telehealth and remote care adoption also help create a positive sentiment. Smart phones, digital cameras and audios helped virtually connect with physicians, saving time and avoiding in-person visits.

That said, it is time to reinvent the wheel and take digitalization up a notch, before the system witnesses another unprecedented event. So, what will this re-reinvented ecosystem look like? Innovations in teleconsultation, online waiting rooms, hospital at home, medical shopping, connected devices, and analytics for proactive care will play a major role in the coming years. A possible next-gen scenario where connected devices can change healthcare is detailed below:

  • Blockchain and EHR (Electronic Health Record) ensuring data security could boost confidence and trust from patients. Blockchain based data could help the patients and all the other stakeholders with live and updated medical history. This could also help physicians understand patient history in turn help offer accurate diagnosis and care.
  • Blockchain can also help payers securely and reliably transmit and access data, giving them greater visibility into a patient’s medical history when creating a customized care plan.
  • Pharmacies would benefit by providing the patient on time delivery of required medicines and help better manage medication adherence through consumption analysis with AI-based algorithms. This can also serve as an inventory management tool on medication use and abuse.
  • IoMTs help patients self-test and analysis through AI-based bots and predictive care with AI-based algorithms in devices. Patients are alerted with alarms and reminders for any out-of-the-range vitals. To encourage adoption and usage, these can be made a part of the care plans and insurance benefits.
  • Transparency and visibility over the entire ecosystem could bring in more confidence and trust.

The Time to Act

Undoubtedly, the future looks promising for all the stakeholders of the healthcare ecosystem with value-based care and connected ecosystem. Given there are multiple stakeholders involved in an individual’s health and wellness journey, digitalization can help make the experience seamless and improve accessibility and affordability. Additionally, it will ensure care in a lower cost setting with telehealth and self-monitoring.

However, successful adoption of digital transformation requires contribution from everyone in the ecosystem for navigating care in a complex environment.

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PVS Jyotsna has over 15 years of experience in databases/data warehouses designing and implementation, among others. She also has experience in Agile delivery frameworks and is a TCS-certified Agile Ninja Coach. She has delivery experience on Scrum and SAFe delivery frameworks. Backed by her domain experience in CRM, telecom, and healthcare, she is a Solution Architect with the Transformation and Engineering Group of the Healthcare Industry Solutions Unit.