The healthcare industry has long been aware of the potential value of technology, and its adoption rate has been growing steadily before the outbreak of COVID-19. However, the pandemic has resulted in a marked increase in the use of ICT by both physicians and patients. It is clear that telemedicine, patient portals and remote monitoring are likely to be essential components of healthcare in the future.
A recent study conducted by EY revealed that 83% of surveyed healthcare practitioners expressed increased confidence in digital health technology since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, 67% of those surveyed stated their intention to use cutting-edge technology to improve patient care and streamline their offices.
This leads us to ask: what technology will they utilize? There are numerous possibilities, however, based on our discussions with medical professionals, we understand that the following six are highly sought after.
Telehealth is here to stay and has been a direct result of the increased use of technology during the pandemic. COVID-19 has been the primary driver of the development of telemedicine, but its advantages in terms of accessibility and efficiency mean that it will remain a long-term resource.
The increased use of telehealth services prior to the outbreak has made the benefits of telemedicine for regular health checks and minor illnesses more apparent to both patients and medical professionals.
Distant Patient Tracking
It can be argued that telemedicine incorporates remote patient monitoring, and this is indeed the case. RPM goes beyond the standard follow-up appointment or a video assessment of symptoms. This is because RPM involves the utilization of various devices (such as wearables) to gather health data from patients and send it to their physicians.
Consequently, medical practitioners will always have the latest insights into their patients’ health. Healthcare professionals can use wearables to track vitals such as blood pressure, weight, glucose levels, body temperature and also the quality of sleep. When combined with AI, these devices can provide invaluable data which can help doctors personalize their care for each patient.
Platforms for Communication and Collaboration
Patients were not the only ones affected by social distancing; doctors also experienced a shift in their working practices, with a greater reliance on digital tools to sustain professional relationships and coordinate care during patient absences. It is unsurprising, then, that healthcare has become a major focus for communication and collaboration solutions.
Medical professionals can now benefit from a range of communication and collaboration platforms, enabling them to provide superior care for a greater number of patients, particularly those who require a multi-disciplinary approach. No longer needing to wait for in-person appointments to discuss patient outcomes, doctors can now take advantage of a combination of cloud-based, desktop, and mobile applications.
Patient Access Online System
Internet-based systems are not limited to corporate use. Additionally, healthcare organizations can use cloud-based technologies to maintain ongoing communication with their patients. To enhance patient care management, a number of hospitals and clinics have already adopted patient portals. Patients can utilize these portals to monitor their medications, view their lab results, make payments, and gain further insight into their treatments, although the features of each portal may vary depending on the institution offering the service.
Patient portals can simplify appointment scheduling, allowing patients to select a convenient time and date from any location with an internet connection. In addition, chatbots can be integrated into these portals to automate the process, thus reducing the amount of work required from patients. Furthermore, the incorporation of AI into patient portals may lead to innovative features such as automated reminders for regular services or follow-up visits.
Applications Hosted in the Cloud
It is clear that cloud-computing infrastructure is essential for telemedicine, remote patient monitoring (RPM), collaboration and patient management applications. Without a robust cloud-computing foundation, these solutions will not be viable. Therefore, healthcare practitioners must invest in this technology.
Hospitals and clinics may find that transitioning their operations to the cloud provides many benefits. Running on-premises hardware and software may function adequately, however the advantages of using cloud technology may be worth considering.
Artificial Intelligence for Data Analysis
AI for data analysis is not new, however this does not diminish its significance for the healthcare industry. AI has been incredibly beneficial during the current pandemic, being used for the diagnosis of COVID-19, the creation of vaccines, and contact tracing. Going forward, AI will be even more heavily employed in healthcare, particularly in relation to personalized treatment plans.
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Technologically Reimagined Health Care
It is clear that the healthcare industry can benefit from the use of a range of technologies. Whilst we have identified some of the most prominent ones, there are other solutions that may prove beneficial in providing personalized treatment plans. These include blockchain, 5G, robotics, the Internet of Things, and edge computing, which offer innovative approaches to the industry.
It is clear that selecting one technology to implement in a healthcare organization is a challenging task. While there is no guarantee of success, careful consideration of the organization’s needs, objectives, resources and products can help to identify the most suitable technology to address the main areas of difficulty.
Healthcare technology has become integral to medical procedures due to its ability to provide effective solutions to pressing issues. During the pandemic, these tools were instrumental in bringing order to a chaotic environment and producing desirable outcomes. It is difficult to envisage a healthcare system in the future that does not make use of them.