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HOW TO MODERNIZE HEALTHCARE AND MAKE IT AFFORDABLE USING DIGITAL
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 it services and solutions, 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.
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 software 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 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 from application development 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.
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 in mobile application development services 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.
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 dedicated team 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.
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.