While medical science has always benefited from technological advances, the past few years have witnessed a complete transformation. From monitoring patients via wearables, to the availability of high-technology diagnostic and therapeutic equipment—technology has revolutionized the way healthcare is delivered.
Healthcare technology is the cornerstone of an industry that is pushing its digital boundaries to ensure high-quality care and reduced patient safety concerns.
It can no longer be defined as the simple amalgamation of technologies to store, share, and analyze health information. We are transitioning to an age where healthcare IT systems are no longer siloed by the department, location, service type, or data type. In a bid to keep up with rising patient expectations, the focus is on ensuring that a company’s IT mechanism supports and streamlines the delivery of integrated, multidisciplinary care.
In 2016, the year of the digitally-empowered patient, healthcare IT is poised to permeate our lives deeply—beginning with the widespread shift towards value-based care.
An Industry in Transition
The increasing consumerization of healthcare, coupled with technological advances in the field, has shifted the burden of decision making to the consumers. Consider the switch to a value-based pricing model which is completely refashioning established business models. Undoubtedly, the mandate for the industry, globally, is now to deliver better care at lowered costs—shrinking business margins further.
Providers are now looking for innovative ways to reduce the cost of care while improving patient outcomes. Moreover, factors such as meaningful use compliance requirements are driving more providers to adopt electronic health record (EHR)/electronic medical record (EMR) technologies. The emergence of advanced analytical models is influencing payers and providers to adopt population health management (PHM) and care management technology, which in turn arrest revenue leakage.
Established players have started investing in care delivery assets, and are looking at advanced products and new pricing structures. The focus is on developing new distribution and digital channels, and leveraging disruptive technologies—spanning the Internet of Things (IoT), social, mobile, Big Data analytics, and Cloud—to architect an environment of seamless, connected healthcare. Technology is helping companies adapt quickly to changing market realities, and is enabling customer self-service in areas spanning price transparency, benefits, billing, premium, and claims.
Industry leaders are crafting unparalleled customer service experiences through a comprehensive care continuum—ensuring healthcare providers and payers are able to realize tangible cost and efficiency benefits.
Adopting the Right Technology
To deliver real-time, analytically-charged care insights to the patient and the caregiver, the healthcare industry is currently focusing on:
An IoT architecture and platform, bolstered by the Cloud computing and Big Data analytics
According to a new report, the healthcare IoT market segment is slated to hit $117 billion by 2020. Listed as one of the top trends in 2016 by Gartner, an IoT-enabled ecosystem would ensure remote monitoring for continuous patient care, and help deliver value-based care—focusing largely on prevention rather than ‘fixing’. With sensors collecting comprehensive physiological information and using the Cloud and analytical capabilities to store and analyze the information, caregivers would benefit from acute insights. They would be able to provide the most cost-effective treatments, proactively identify individuals who would benefit from preventative care, and identify predictive events through wide-ranging disease profiling. By embedding sensors in devices, and ensuring remote monitoring and support, organizations can also reduce their equipment downtime.
The mounting importance of mobility, social media, and customer-centric solutions
Millenials, the most sought after demographic today, are constantly gathering data about their health—via wearables and their smartphones. In 2016, there has been a record 25.4% increase in the shipment of Fitbit. The modern-day wearable, and by default the digital customer, is not limited to only ingesting or gathering data—the emphasis has shifted to evaluating health parameters, and leveraging mined insights, to enable better healthcare.
A digital patient is always connected, always informed, and therefore—empowered. He is accustomed to screening doctors’ profiles prior to a visit, with 86% patients in a recent survey responding that they research symptoms online before scheduling visits. The same survey revealed that 84% believe they should have access to their medical e-records. Supporting this claim, a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) states that in 2016 care will irrevocably shift into the consumers’ hands—driving down costs, and facilitating ‘anywhere, anytime’ monitoring, diagnosis and treatment. The study shows that health apps have some of the highest numbers of downloads.
Leading healthcare players such as pharmaceutical companies are already launching mobile apps that disseminate relevant content, and educate consumers on their health-related queries. Linked to this phenomenon is the sudden insistence on social media presence. Hospitals are using social media to create awareness, introduce new products/services, and accumulate customer feedback.
The Way Forward
It is clear that technology is changing the way patients are interacting with healthcare providers and how the latter is transforming: there are widespread implications in terms of diagnostics, treatments, and delivery of care. The patient is now engaged with the rise of e-health data, advanced computing power, pervasive smartphone adoption, and a digitized, integrated workflow. While digital is reducing human involvement at various stages, it is also paving the way and freeing up bandwidth for more substantial value adds in the healthcare sector. However, as touchpoints proliferate, the industry must be geared towards safeguarding sensitive health information and other risks. A structured approach, balanced by the right technology insight, can pave the way for innovative, brighter, and exciting business opportunities.