Digital Transformation in Healthcare


 — February 9th, 2021

Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Digital transformation has fast become a key strategy in organizations all over the world. Some sectors, like manufacturing and retail, have embraced digital transformation, while sectors such as healthcare have been slower to implement widespread digital transformation strategies.

There are many reasons for this: healthcare is a complex sector that deals directly with sensitive patient data and life and death circumstances.

Applying digital technologies to any layer of this multi-pronged sector requires a measured approach. However, the benefits of digital transformation in healthcare are significant and could change the nature of how countries provide healthcare services.

The way in which we interact with brands has changed. Consumer organizations like Apple, Google, and Amazon have built global brands by offering user-friendly, seamless products and services.

We've also become inherently mobile, doing everything from banking to grocery via our mobile phones. How is the healthcare sector responding to citizens' demands for increased flexibility, accessibility, and ease of interaction?

We're already seeing some countries enabling the digitization of healthcare services and making patient data more accessible. But let's look at some key digital technologies that are poised to kick start digital transformation in healthcare and make a dramatic impact on global healthcare services.

Employee comms can make or break your digital transformation – Here’s how to do it right

Big Data in healthcare

As its name suggests Big Data concerns huge volumes of data. The task with such large volumes, as one would expect in a healthcare setting, is analyzing it and gaining information from it that can then be used in impactful ways. Here are some of the key areas in which Big Data is making a real difference in the healthcare sector:

  • Disease research and prediction
  • Automating administrative tasks
  • Detecting illness earlier
  • Reducing unnecessary doctor visits
  • Providing more accurate health insurance rates
  • Delivering more personalized healthcare services

In the US, Tempus uses data to deliver precision medicine. Its platform gathers and categorizes data from lab reports, clinical notes, radiology scans, and pathology images. That data is being used to accelerate oncology research and help doctors to create more personalized and informed treatment plans.

Pharmaceutical R&D has arguably never been more important than right now. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we're seeing the clear ways in which data has helped to develop much-needed vaccines in an incredibly quick timeframe. Several companies are building huge data libraries that help pharmaceutical companies and researchers to easily access and make sense of vast amounts of data. This helps speed up drug and vaccine development, enhances safety, and results in better outcomes.

Virtual Reality in healthcare

VR has been identified as a key tool in digital transformation in healthcare. Though the technology is most associated with the gaming sector it is beginning to make an impact in the healthcare market; the augmented reality and virtual reality in the healthcare market is expected to reach $5.1 billion by 2025. Here are seven ways in which VR is being used in healthcare today:

  1. Pain relief and pain management
  2. Bi-polar treatment
  3. Treatment of PTSD
  4. Training of surgeons
  5. Transforming heart surgery
  6. Easing pre-surgery anxiety among patients
  7. Help paraplegics regain muscle control

A 2018 study in Cedars Sinai examined the use of Virtual Reality as a drug-free tool to manage pain. Researchers compared pain scores of two sets of patients: one set used Samsung Gear Oculus VR headsets that featured immersive 3D nature videos, while the second set simply watched nature videos on a bedside TV. This simple but effective study revealed that the "use of VR in hospitalized patients significantly reduces pain versus a control distraction condition.”

Wearables in healthcare

The wearables market has exploded in recent years with devices like the Fitbit and Apple Watch emerging as popular wearable devices.

While these particular devices are aimed at the fitness market, we are now seeing more advanced wearable medical devices that keep track of anything from heart rates to oxygen levels. Here are some of the more common wearable devices and what they monitor:

  • Heart rate sensors
  • Exercise and movement trackers
  • Sweat meters to monitor blood sugar levels in diabetics
  • Oximeters to monitor the amount of oxygen carried in the blood for those with respiratory diseases such as COPD or asthma

We've mentioned before how digital transformation is a holistic process aimed at transforming every layer of an organization. The increased use of wearable medical devices allows for this digital transformation in healthcare to extend beyond an organization itself and put healthcare into the hands of the patients.

Armed with all of this data about their heart rates, movement, oxygen levels, blood sugar levels, consumers and healthcare professionals can take a more proactive approach to healthcare services. The market is poised to grow to over 520 million units by 2025 with smart clothing in particular set to make huge strides.

Artificial Intelligence in healthcare

We've previously mentioned Big Data and the positive effects it is having on the healthcare sector, but Artificial Intelligence is fast becoming the key to understanding all of that data and putting it to positive use.

The technology is also being used to automate key healthcare-related tasks. Here are 10 of the main uses of AI in the digital transformation in healthcare:

  1. Medical image analysis
  2. Healthcare Virtual Digital Assistants
  3. Computational drug discovery and drug effectiveness
  4. Medical treatment recommendations
  5. Processing patient data
  6. Assisting in medical diagnosis
  7. Converting paper records into digital records
  8. Automated report generation
  9. Hospital patient management system
  10. Biomarker discovery
Employee comms can make or break your digital transformation – Here’s how to do it right

The impact AI is expected to have on the healthcare sector simply cannot be overstated. From virtual assistants and robots to precision medicine and drug discovery, its potential is limitless. Major pharmaceutical organizations are already making use of AI to reduce the drug development cycle. Private AI company BenevolentAI has estimated that it can cut the costs associated with drug development by 60 percent and reduce the drug design timeframe from three years to one. With figures like these, it's little wonder that AI has been pegged as the flagship technology in the digital transformation of the healthcare market.

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