High and ever-growing healthcare costs (reaching almost 17% of GDP in the USA!), aging society, an increasing number of people with chronic diseases, lack of medical staff, and last but not least, COVID-19 pandemic - these are the main catalysts of digital health development today. Answering these diversified problems requires harnessing the whole plethora of technologies although we can single out the ones fueling the digital transformation in this industry most. Here’s our selection of the most significant tech solutions that drive the progress of digitization in healthcare.
The technology enabling us to visit a doctor without leaving our homes became a breakthrough and went beyond a simple phone call to receive medical consultation. That’s the foundation of telemedicine - one of the most significant sectors of digital health - to mitigate the necessity of meeting physicians in person. To achieve this goal we need to use more advanced methods of remote communication like video conferencing or live chats and implement subsidiary services and features including electronic prescriptions, online scheduling, IoT devices for remote examination, etc. In fact, there is a whole range of products and services that switch the medical industry to the remote mode.
Telehealth’s growth is expected to be valued at more than 175 billion U.S. dollars by 2026. That shouldn’t surprise anyone especially in the world suffering from COVID-19 and aware of the risk of appearing another pandemic in the future. Of course, this is not the only reason why telemedicine is developing so dynamically. Its growth is also fuelled by an urgent need to boost the accessibility of medical consultations, increasing healthcare costs, growing life expectancy, and a limited number of physicians. These factors and trends don’t seem to change so the demand for telemedicine services should only rise.
EMR/EHR and business management systems
They might be not the most thrilling kinds of technologies on the list, however, their impact on digital transformation in healthcare is tremendous. Special systems like PMS (Practice Management System) are designed to lift the effectiveness in medical facilities, refine the processes, and improve the patient experience. To do all that they usually use features like scheduling appointments, making payments and billings, managing patient data, arranging duty roster, processing insurance, handling and optimizing purchase orders, etc. They’re also integrated with EMR (electronic health record) / EHR (electronic medical records) - the other technologies making a change in the whole healthcare system.
They both concern digital health data nevertheless the first is made for and used within a particular facility while the second is designed to be versatile and generally accessible so that different institutions (e.g hospitals, insurance companies, etc.) will able to exchange the records. Easy access to the patient data, test and examination results, and doctors’ notes are indisputable benefits that contributed to an intensive spread of EMR/EHR systems.
The use of EMR/EHR systems in the United States
This digitization of medical facilities is, of course, a reason to rejoice, but physicians alarm about the imperfections and limitations of the currently available systems. Two-thirds of them think EHRs have generally led to better care (63%), however, 70% admitted that it has a negative impact on their relationships with patients, work comfort and job satisfaction at the same time.
The research from Stanford Medicine (conducted with The Harris Poll) we refer to bring valuable knowledge also about the improvements that should be made to let EHR/EMR systems perform their role, meet the users’ needs and expectations. A great part of the solutions pointed out by physicians like predictive analytics supporting disease diagnosis or voice recording used during the patient visits to automatically prepare transcriptions, require harnessing technologies from the wider range of artificial intelligence.
AI and machine learning
The spectrum of AI applications in healthcare is prodigious and the possibilities of this technology are limitless. It already serves within both - simple yet useful mobile applications for patients and advanced algorithms that support making the most accurate treatment decisions as well as ground-breaking medical discoveries.
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In more down-to-earth version digital health solutions utilize machine learning for administrative purposes of facilities, e.g. within systems we’ve already mentioned in the previous paragraph. This way the institutions can save money and time by making more pertinent medication orders or adjusting physicians’ schedules to the seasonal demand of patients. But that’s just a small sample of unleashing the AI potential within the healthcare area. One of the most promising and awaited med applications of artificial intelligence is providing doctors with decision making support. The stakes are high as 12 million Americans suffer a diagnostic error each year. Harnessing AI to compare data from other experts’ notes, examinations, prescriptions, tests, and researches, arms medical staff with extremely valuable hints. These suggestions are based on the experience of thousands of physicians and cases of millions of patients and are processed by highly-advanced algorithms. They can be used to make a more accurate diagnosis as well as to detect diseases earlier, precisely adjust the medicines and prepare tailor-made treatment.
Personalisation in healthcare gained with the utilization of AI might help not only in conducting proper therapies but also in preventing the maladies and coaxing to lead a healthy lifestyle. This idea has been successfully adapted in CareCentra - the self-learning platform engaging and shaping the behavior of cardiovascular patients to achieve healthier outcomes. The innovative approach behind this solution is based on the Nobel Prize-winning “nudge” theory. It assumes that people do not always make choices that lead to the best outcomes as they are influenced by emotions and personal needs. Richard H. Thaler, the author of the theory, believes that we can encourage them to change the way they act with “nudges” - indirect, positive suggestions. Alright, but what it has to do with AI in healthcare?
CareCentra creators along with Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute decided to implement the theory to improve medication adherence. They generate personalized nudges and deliver them to the patients through multiple channels - phone calls, online messages, other apps, Siri, Alexa, and within personal visits. The customization is based on the patients’ social, behavioral, clinical, and claims data to find the most effective way of persuading them toward the desired behavior. Results?
With the growing volume and diversification of digital information gathered in systems and devices increases the significance of utilizing Big Data in healthcare. The CAGR of Big Data Analytics in this market is 19.1% by 2025 and there are no indications that this forecast is exaggerated. Nevertheless, there are heavy challenges in the way to develop this technology like performing the correct analyses of information to draw truthful conclusions or providing sterling security solutions to keep one of the most sensitive types of data safe. Apart from that engineers have to face not only a huge amount of data but also their high diversification. AI has to handle structuring different file formats and understanding and interpreting nontext files coming from i.a. imaging and respiratory examinations. That, in turn, requires improving the image and sound recognition solutions which are the other technologies driving health tech growth, especially within the IoT sector.
IoT and wearables
The IoT in Healthcare Market is expected to be worth $188.2 billion by 2025. The CAGR reaching 21.0% (the forecast period of 2020-2025) gives a pretty good idea of the skyrocketing growth of these technologies. Wearables serve the development of digital health in various ways.
Wearable health sensors, source: medicalfuturist.com
First of all, they deliver valuable data about our condition which can help to monitor our health state on an ongoing basis and notice the abnormalities fast. That is extremely important for people suffering from chronic diseases or patients after surgeries and complicated treatment. What’s more, they can monitor a vast collection of vital parameters via e.g. fitness bands and smartwatches to help us live a healthier life and avoid ailments.
IoT also supports telemedicine enabling patients to make examinations remotely, share the results with their doctors, and receive a diagnosis without face to face visits. And even though placing the medical products on the market lasts for long years, there is already a quite rich gamut of available devices like PocketECG or wireless stethoscope.
Wearables are used by patients as well as medical staff in hospitals e.g. the sensors built in equipment such as defibrillators or oxygen pumps can help to track their location.
Need to harness the best technologies in your digital health product? Contact us - we will be happy to advise which one of them you should choose!