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Digitization of Healthcare – Beyond apps to IoT/AI/Big Data

Digitization of Healthcare – Beyond apps to IoT/AI/Big Data
August 21, 2017

Gone are the days when you needed to pay your travel agent a service fee to make reservations. You now use various websites or apps to plan your itinerary and contact the customer care via chat/call if you have any queries. Just as travel agents have become obsolete today, so could be the case with customer care executives. What’s replacing them are agents that understand human language and reply accordingly. These are AI-powered bots which – through the use of machine learning and Natural Language Processing – understand your wants and preferences to suggest the best possible combination of deals, answers, and reservations.

Besides travel, technology has transformed a number of industries and sectors. After putting in huge investments, digital transformation has finally equipped various stakeholders with apps which could collect vast amounts of data. But simply collecting data through apps isn’t going to yield any value. The data now referred to as Big Data is too voluminous to be handled by humans. So, we need machines which can identify patterns and make sense of this data, garnering insights that help complete tasks accurately with minimal time and costs.

Digital Transformation through Digitization

The Business World is undergoing digital transformation and emerging technologies are enabling various stakeholders to improve the value to the customer. Digitization is one of such trend.

Digitization refers to creating a digital version of analog/physical things such as paper documents, microfilm images, photographs, sounds, and more. So, it’s simply converting and/or representing something non-digital like signals, health records, location data, identity cards, etc. into a digital format which then can be used by a computing system for numerous possible reasons.

Digitization in Healthcare

Many industries like automobile, retail, Manufacturing, Banking, Agriculture, etc. have adopted Digitization. But the segment where Digitization could help save lives and significantly improve quality of life is the healthcare industry.

The healthcare industry is different from the other examples as regulatory norms in healthcare are significantly more stringent compared to other big verticals. Yet, while it is true that healthcare industry has to follow more guidelines than most, this is only the most obvious tip of the iceberg. Far more substantive and subtle structural challenges lurk below.

What healthcare service providers need to do

The apps were earlier developed for a particular client or range of patients. But these emerging technologies have opened a plethora of new avenues. Leaders in the healthcare industry must try to partner with the companies which have the requisite technological skills and know-how at their disposal.

Optimization through Digitization in healthcare

Patients often have to face major delays at various stages of treatment, right from admission till discharge. This includes wait time at labs to get various tests done, waiting for beds, waiting to collect medical reports, and delays resulting from the unavailability of medical equipment at critical junctures.

Hospitals and healthcare service providers can optimize these processes by scanning the collected data from machines and running them through various forms of analytics like predictive, prescriptive, descriptive, and so on.

How healthcare can benefit by moving from traditional apps to IoT, Big Data, and AI

With the introduction of IoT, sensors, and actuators and the continuous flow of information from every device, the result is vast and unstructured Big Data.

Big Data Analytics helps identify the patterns in various patient records and optimize the precaution, saving a lot of time and complexity. This would not be the case if the healthcare service provider had to match each patient’s records with existing samples.

How IoT, Big Data, AI combine to deliver value to the patient

These connected devices transmit vital data from the patient’s location to hospital staff. It allows them to monitor the patient’s health in real time, without constantly being beside the patient. These devices use wirelessly connected heart rate monitors, blood pressure monitors, and glucometers. 

Major application of IoT would be the real time monitoring in the ICU procedures. This includes devices for wireless/remote vital sign monitoring and ultrasound monitoring regardless of a hospital environment.

Wearable devices are equipped with push buttons to send alerts in case of medical emergencies. This can prove to be a boon for patients with chronic diseases. Many a time, the device also allows them to contact an expert to take stock of the situation. Fitness bands are another addition to this IoT lineup of medical devices. Throughout the day, vital data from the body is transmitted wirelessly to devices such as computers and smartphones. And with analytics and AI, the optimal solution and treatment can be suggested to the patient, without incurring exorbitant medical expenses.

While part of a larger digital transformation plan, these three technologies are technically all different. But when used in conjunction with each other, they open up a huge pool of opportunities in healthcare.


Big Data Analytics enables real-time monitoring and critical insights can be obtained by tracking patient communication and behavior patterns from various sources such as wearables. Digitization in healthcare not only equips patients with various application functionalities, but also lets medical providers customize treatment plans accordingly.

And with Artificial Intelligence, the bots or telemedicine could recommend medication and diet habits. This could help reduce the risk of diseases and increase life span by ‘n’ number of years.

However, when it comes to private information being subjected to digitization in healthcare, the risk of hackers getting hold of sensitive data and leveraging the records on the black market is a real possibility. And like any other form of electronic records such as phone numbers, location, or credit cards, digital health records are also revocable.

Imagine a world of internet-connected heart-rate monitors, implantable defibrillators, and insulin pumps – it is necessary to have a security strategy in place. And care should be taken that the medical service providers don’t allow unauthorized access or open source software, always keeping the devices updated with the latest firmware.