Healthcare is arguably one of the most impacted sectors during the crisis. Technology has dramatically transformed the sector and e-health is growing at unprecedented levels. Significant progress has been made in healthcare over the last few years, but the pandemic has propelled it faster than we could have imagined. Clearly, the rapid innovation that is happening within the industry can be leveraged to enable more inclusive healthcare services.
Healthtech has long been striving to find technology-driven improvements along the patient journey, from disease detection to diagnostics and treatment optimisation, chronic disease treatment, remote care and now, rapid and accurate results of COVID-19 etc. The healthcare industry is exhibiting a positive intent towards the innovations that are happening in and around. A mere shift from the traditional consulting room to the virtual consultation space is indeed a path-breaking journey. Let’s explore these innovations in detail.
Digital Healthcare Innovations
Major advances in computing power and wireless technology are impacting both clinical and business operations. Machine learning, robotic process automation (RPA), and cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) are being leveraged to improve healthcare infrastructure. Additionally, data access and data sharing are improving self service, personalised care and patient experience. The scope of technology in healthcare is wider than we can imagine, for instance, Blockchain has the potential to enhance traceability, trust, and collaboration across clinical trials, supply chain management, financial transactions and claims processing.
Cutting-edge and ideating pilot programmes around mobile health (m-health) and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) are among many other innovations. Moreover, hospitals both public and private are moving to online patient registration and service delivery systems; and mobile apps for appointment booking, test reports and analytics, sharing health tips, etc.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs)
EHRs have eased and improved communication between providers and provider-patient as they are shareable through devices and secure networks. The convenience of EHRs is also appreciated by healthcare professionals who can instantly know a patient’s entire medical history. Moreover, they are capable of enhancing preventive care efforts and minimising errors by providing an easily readable and comprehensive document of the patient’s history. This enables the provider to look back for patterns and find a medical condition that may have been overlooked and start preventive action immediately.
Healthcare is tapping into the enormous potential of 3D printing to reduce the cost of manufacturing prosthetics, prototypes, tissue, skin, and even pharmaceuticals. 3D printing is helping providers and patients alike. With the looming threat of coronavirus, the nation is grappling to address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, oxygen masks and other medical devices. Amidst the crisis, 3D-printing techniques are being used as a quick fix to address the global shortage.
With COVID-19 acting as an inflexion point for rapid innovation, technological innovations like telemedicine are revolutionising the global healthcare system. As coronavirus hit across boundaries with a devastating blow, the number of healthcare facilities and providers offering teleconsultation and tele-information services are rapidly increasing. In fact, many providers have completely shifted to virtual consultations during these challenging circumstances.
Videoconferencing has facilitated our lives in many forms – stay connected with colleagues, family and friends, from any corner of the world and improved healthcare facility with quality and convenient care for patients. Further, telemedicine is helping bridge the care access divide that exists at the demographic level and income level. The caregivers are now able to interact with their patients from remote areas, far off from local healthcare facility or areas where there is no healthcare specialist.
Wearables are helping improve patient outcomes by providing real-time data which providers otherwise may not have had access to. Particularly in remote patient monitoring, wearable technology is helping improve care satisfaction among patients. By monitoring heart rate and blood pressure, and miniaturising ECG, wearables continue to disrupt traditional tools of diagnosis.
The healthcare system is rapidly trying to incorporate technology into their operations to deal with the crisis. InnoHealth Magazine studied around 25-30 start-ups for their innovations related to COVID-19. The products or equipments that can help to deal with the pandemic were categorized under Artificial Intelligence, Telemedicine, Screening, Tracing and Tracking Apps, Wearables and Testing Kits. The percentage of innovation was maximum in AI followed by wearables, testing kits and others.
Summing It All Up
The equitable distribution of healthcare services has proven to be a major challenge in public health management and technological advancements are helping address this issue by delivering value in many areas of healthcare delivery. As technology in healthcare continues to replace traditional systems, it will redefine the equity, quality, and affordability of healthcare throughout the world.
(Disclaimer: The writer is Dr. Kanav Kahol, CEO, DIVOC Health. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)