How the New Normal is creating disruptive innovations in Digital Healthcare
Healthcare has been essentially presumed as an offline and in-person service for the longest time now. Online consultation lacks trust, assurance, and empathy one feels at the time of in-person examination. Healthcare apps, TeleHealth and other digitization forms have been on the rise for quite a few years now. Still, the acceptance was shallow, that’s until COVID 19 erupted and made healthcare accelerate the quest for no-contact alternatives. This immediate adoption is boosting the digital health-tech industry.
The changing face of Digital Healthcare
Speaking to The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Amwell President and CEO Dr. Roy Schoenberg said, “Patient volumes were up by 3,000% to 4,000% by mid-March in certain US locations compared to usage before the pandemic.” In comparison to 2019 figures, the numbers further skyrocketed since March. Similar adoption patterns have been reported from other continents as well due to an interest in ‘personalized patient experiences’, ‘improved operational outcomes’ and ‘empowered healthcare workers.’
Digitization of Healthcare Information
Dealing with rare diseases and novel viruses involves combating unknown challenges. Historical healthcare data (used to train AI/ML models) can be helpful to draw references. But there is a humongous volume of raw data lying out there, and while a part of it is unorganized, most data has been organized by institutions to suit their requirements. To understand this better, this video by Healthwise explains how different people see organizational structures and how it may or may not make sense to others. Therefore, more than access, the challenge lies in identifying relevant high-quality data and finding meaningful insights that can translate into usable diagnosis. The breakout of COVID 19 has emphasized the urgency to develop universal classification techniques and ensure quick identification and retrieval of data to help patients and medical caregivers alike. Technologies like FHIR by HL7 are taking big leaps to solve this problem and make it a seamless glide through global patient records and other documents.
As patients become increasingly aware of healthcare online, there is a growing need for health institutions to hurry up and put out easy-to-find, usable knowledge artifacts that are accurate and also actionable. Dedicated systems enable these institutions to improve their all-around digital capabilities with Artificial Intelligence (AI/ML) solutions. While some of these adoptions will result in more robust EHR management and classification and help patients indirectly, a lot of them will transform into information directly shareable with patients. For example, Healthwise is a non-profit platform that acts as a credible resource center empowering patients and care providers with the latest in health education and applications. It offers content as a service, helping medical information curators to quickly identify and put together different content pieces verified by qualified clinicians to educate patients and the public. Video clip: The Keys to Finding the Right Information.
Here is the representation that reflects Microsoft Health Industry Vision on capabilities that enable better experiences, better insights and better care that need to be built leveraging the modern digital health data common model systems.
COVID-19: Challenges of Remote Care & Resource Distribution
COVID 19 has suddenly put a lot of pressure on the healthcare industry, & health systems of most countries have been grappling with the situation and trying to reallocate and repurpose their resources based on adopted strategies during the spread of MERS and SARS. Here’s a look at how they’ve managed to do that.
1. Infrastructure & Workforce Allocation: Dedicated task forces and care units have been created for each patient category. Infrastructure-wise, temporary care units and isolation wards with basic and advanced medical facilities have been set up on an immediate basis by hospitals, mostly with aids from government and private players.
2. Remote Care: In light of the current crisis, non-serious patients can be divided into two categories:
- Corona patients with mild symptoms: Home care packages with access to help portals, apps, wearables, and a few monitoring aids have been introduced for patients who have been advised to home quarantine. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) helps lessen the burden on hospitals while patients are also assured and comfortable.
- Non-serious, non-corona patients: There is a new way of looking at this set, which is far from comfortable for both doctors as well as the patients, but as long as it keeps the virus away, telehealth is the preferred way. There are guidelines on how to examine patients on video and also on prescribing medicines. The workforce needs to be trained for it because even after the pandemic is over and things look under control, this is going to be the new normal.
3. Supplies & Equipment: The World Health Organization has developed Essential Supplies Forecasting Tool (ESFT),designed to estimate potential surge in the need of personal protective equipment, diagnostic equipment, biomedical equipment for case management, essential drugs for supportive care, and consumable medical supplies for the current pandemic of COVID-19.
4. Telehealth Innovations: Digitally, online dashboards have been created overnight to keep track of key figures such as the number of COVID 19 patients, the available number of beds, and other data related to the pandemic. Mobile apps have been created to monitor the health of those who have been home quarantined. New payment structures are being developed to enable remote consultation services including, but not limited to, video calls, text and email-based diagnosis, mobile health and diagnosis applications, and a range of AI-enabled bots and devices.
5. Investing in FHIR: The pandemic has reiterated the need to be digitally equipped for all medical institutions. Here is where FHIR® — Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (hl7.org/fhir) steps in to help as standards driven body.For those who were ignoring it have been forced to adopt and adapt.
6. Knowledge Mining: In essence, Knowledge Mining is about finding real value from the existing unstructured information. It Increases efficiency with actionable business insights through AI that optimize clinical pathways, operational workflows, and quality improvement using secure healthcare data. WinWire like firms have been developing deep KM solutions in this area with support of our partners and customer, and what used to be called data mining is no more — this is the age of purposeful & responsible AI.
7. Vaccine Development: A lot of countries are investing massive amounts in developing the COVID-19 vaccine. Top pharmaceutical companies and medical research institutes for eg. Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline-partnered COVID-19 vaccine got $2.1 billion from the US government to speed up their research; while China’s Sinovac Biotech received $15m to advance the development of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. New research apps will arise.
Digital Healthcare is the Inevitable Future
Covid-19 has paved the way for a future that will do away with the complex processes currently followed in hospitals all over the world. Digital Health innovations will take over the industry with their hassle-free and time-saving solutions for doctors, clinicians, lab practitioners, patients, data analyzers, and other stakeholders. For patients, mHealth apps will change their healthcare routine completely. The focus will be on eliminating the unnecessary time spent physically visiting the hospital, improving the accuracy of diagnosis, increasing efficiency of healthcare providers, enhancing overall patient experience, and regularly upgrading electronic health record data to build intelligent knowledge platforms.
The initial resistance to adopting healthcare digitization is history. According to a 2018 study, healthcare technology users, which includes mobile apps, electronic records, wearable devices, and online communities, are increasing every year. Exact numbers cannot be quoted as no reports have come out post the COVID 19 breakout. Still, it is only logical to conclude that this shift in healthcare services consumption is here to stay and will play a crucial role in shaping the post-pandemic healthcare industry structure.
Countries are increasingly adopting smart bots for preliminary patient interaction and a few labor-intensive jobs that do not depend on human discretion so much. With intelligent systems getting ready for smarter jobs, the industry is certainly moving towards a much bigger revolution.
In my next blog, I will be exploring ‘Responsible AI’ tech in healthcare to give you a glimpse of what the future of healthcare services will look like. It will be one of the biggest vaults in the history of global healthcare; a complete paradigm shift in the way we handle total health. So, stay tuned!
Author : VirooPax B. Mirji. — — Viroo Mirji (@ vpax)