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How to Modernize Healthcare and Make it Affordable Using Digital

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Most healthcare institutions have adopted the third wave of IT, which has allowed them to digitize their enterprise – including channels, processes and care-coordination initiatives. Having said that, most of them are still struggling to address patients’ challenges like burgeoning costs, inadequate access to healthcare services, and poor care quality. On the one hand you have digital-savvy customers who demand access to cutting-edge solutions and services, and on the other, you have patients who cannot afford even the most basic healthcare services. The task is cut out for healthcare institutions – providers have to modernize and refresh their IT infrastructure, and at the same time, ensure that they leverage digital technologies to make healthcare affordable to all.

Consumers and Physicians - Healthcare

In order to truly be a digital business, healthcare institutions must adopt a cloud-based IT infrastructure and an agile network, which will act as the backbone of all the devices, applications and workflows used by various departments within the organization. Most healthcare organizations burn their fingers when they try to rapidly deploy digital solutions without having a roadmap or strategy in place – these need not be ironclad and nor do organizations have to go all-out right at the beginning. Like with everything else, there is a learning-curve and healthcare providers would be wise to put one foot forward at a time, and scale according to their organization’s digital maturity and need. The key is to have a transformation strategy in place, one that outlines the various components and what objectives they will help serve, the investment required, the priority in which they need to be deployed and a time-frame for execution. In this post we will talk about a few key components that will go into this transformation strategy, which will both modernize healthcare services, and make it inexpensive.

  • Electronic Health Record (EHR)

The first step on the road to digital transformation is digitizing all health records, and to be rid of archaic paper-based record systems altogether. Most healthcare institutions today have already moved to an Electronic Health Record (EHR) or Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system, which allows them to track patient health more effectively and to check for harmful drug interactions. This real-time exchange of cloud-hosted data doesn’t just help physicians and patients access data anytime, anywhere, it also allows insurance companies and pharmacists gated access to patient information. If this wasn’t incentive enough, the Centers for Medicaid Services (CMS) has further incentivized the adoption of EHR under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, for hospitals and service providers.

According to Accenture, the global EHR market will reach $22.3 billion by the end of 2015. Click To Tweet
  • mHealth

According to Research and Markets, the mHealth (Mobile Health) market will account for nearly USD 18 Billion in 2016. mHealth offers patients access to affordable healthcare services via mobile devices and telecommunication networks. It also provides patients easier access to physicians and public health information, allows caregivers to track patient health history, allows healthcare institutions to offer emergency/diagnostic services, monitor patient health and allows physicians to prescribe medication for chronic disease management, among other things. This is a lucrative space for mobile network operators as well, since a growing number of their subscribers are adopting mobile health devices, apps and wearables. Many operators already offer either branded or co-branded mHealth solutions, including SMS-based services.

mHealth serves two primary purposes – firstly, it brings healthcare closer to patients, especially patients ailing from chronic diseases, and allows healthcare institutions/physicians to reduce overburdening of their low workforce and limited infrastructure. Secondly, it allows patients from remote locations and low income families, to access cheap healthcare services.

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  • Telemedicine

Telemedicine allows physicians to consult/treat patients virtually over mobile devices and telecommunication networks. It also allows patients located in remote locations to receive primary care, facilitates treatment in case of emergencies where transporting by ambulance is not an option, or in cases where the patient is unable to make a trip to the hospital. This technology enables physicians to consult with their peers or specialists, when distance is a barrier. It also assists in collecting patient data and sending it to a Remote Diagnostic Testing Facility (RDTF) for interpretation. From a healthcare service provider’s perspective, telemedicine helps cut costs and make the best use of the doctor’s time.

  • Advanced Analytics

The fact that maintaining EHRs has been made mandatory, coupled with the fact that there is a whole universe of data available from mHealth devices, not to mention data collected through multiple point-of-care encounters (claims, pharmacy, lab etc.), means that healthcare providers have large amounts of data that can be leveraged, to offer contextual and meaningful services to patients. Analytics provides the mechanism to sort through the sea of complex and unstructured data. By leveraging patient analytics, healthcare organizations can do more than just improve patient experience and augment care strategy – they can also anticipate medical problems, aid drug research, detect fraud and predict patient behavior etc.  Analytics intelligence can also be used to predict outcomes, find new drug combinations, model scenarios using simulation and forecasting, and improve operational and clinical effectiveness.

According to PwC, only 36% have been able to come to terms with big data; most healthcare organizations are still, either averse to implementing big data solutions or are unable to transcend the complexities involved with implementing the necessary analytics frameworks. But again, the key is to take it one small step at a time, with an analytics vision and plan in place, which will help reduce time-to-value and unlock pertinent insights.

Conclusion

The best way forward is to understand what customers/patients are demanding and subsequently map them against existing services, which will help identify the gaps between customer expectations and what is being offered currently. Next, understand what digital transformation services/solutions are available for the healthcare sector, evaluate the need for implementing them and then consider investments that would need to be made, based on the value-add they would deliver, and how it will improve patient care coordination. This will help healthcare service providers to identify immediate priorities and implement them, with the two primary objectives in mind – modernize healthcare and make it affordable.

Remember, digital transformation is a marathon, not a sprint; hence it is imperative that service providers pace themselves.

Editor's Desk

Editor's Desk

The editor’s desk at Endeavour includes a group of copy editors, business analysts and market researchers who are passionate about disruptive technologies, gadgets and enterprise solutions. With a perfect blend of business acumen and technical know-how, this editorial unit produces insightful thought pieces that cut across industries and domains, for businesses.
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