Co-authored by: Anju Bhati
People’s lives have turned upside down ever since the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced across the world. There is no vaccine currently that can completely recover a patient. However, researchers and healthcare experts are putting in their efforts to invent and perform trials as much as they can with the greatest use of their knowledge and technology health systems to increase access and remote-screen people.
The healthcare ecosystem and subsystem are getting stretched beyond their capacity by the torrent of infected patients and the suspected patients. Hospitals and clinics are using the digital health systems to an extent to treat the patients but the situation in place demands end-to-end digitalization of healthcare ecosystem. Technology companies are trying their best to leverage this opportunity to help healthcare providers make use of digital healthcare solutions to ease the burden of handling multiple patients at once.
The use of virtual care tools, telehealth, tele monitoring have been going on for a long time, but their actual use has gradually increased in the health systems to increase access and remote-screen the people. This provides an opportunity for the industry to completely revolutionize digital healthcare for better sustainability.
The existing healthcare ecosystems are integrated around health insurers, which are not connected, nor digitalized, and hence broken from a consumer services point of view. The rise in the adoption of digital systems increases the focus more toward consumerization. The dominance in this industry is by customary businesses delivering mass and reactive healthcare. Time has now arrived for leaders to think about personalized and proactive healthcare solutions.
Healthcare solutions for COVID-19
In many ways, digital transformation is aiding the healthcare industry to battle the pandemic in a better way. Telemedicine is an alternative model for clinical services and clinical decision backing. The World Health Organization considered and recommended remote clinical services among essential services in “strengthening the Health Systems Response to COVID-19 Pandemic”.
Since everyone knows COVID-19 necessitates self-isolation or quarantine, telehealth cases for patients include self or distance monitoring for self-isolated/ home-isolated patients, distance monitoring and follow up with doctors with trivial cases after discharge. Since it’s a web era and everyone is digital savvy, patients can use digital applications from any device, ranging from computers to smartphones, where they must connect and participate in audio/video conferencing sessions and exchange information.
Below are some statistics that show patient keenness to adopt the telehealth services:
- 61% of millennials expect and support telehealth to replace in-office visits
- 73% of people say they are very open to a virtual health visit
- 84% of patients after a telehealth visit felt they received good quality care
Digital entrance to digital staple for healthcare sustainability
Considering the current situation of COVID-19, the geographical shifts with digital healthcare coming to the front combined with a continued shortage of health professionals, home will become the best place for healthcare services. The requirement of a new digital system will play an important role in how healthcare services will adjust to the new reality.
The COVID-19 crisis provides the new-age digital companies or start-ups an opportunity to aid the healthcare system toward digital transformation. Noticeably, the top-notch tech giants come into play here. They are presently thriving in their businesses because of consumer-centricity. The latest technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data science and many other technologies are being used to manage and fight COVID-19 pandemic at this time.
Diagnose virus using AI
Infer vision, an AI company created a corona virus AI solution that helps the front-line healthcare workers detect and supervise the disease efficiently. Alibaba is also in the race and built an AI-powered diagnosis system that they claim is 96% accurate at diagnosing the virus.
Identify, track, and forecast outbreaks
With the help of AI, we can examine news reports, social media platforms, and government documents which in turn can learn to detect an epidemic. The big tech giants Google and Apple came forward together to build an app to help to track the virus outbreak and make people beware about any infected patients nearby. Also, Blue Dot’s AI identified risks and advised about the threat several days before the WHO issued its public warnings. Robots are getting used for thermal screening, while drones are getting used for delivering medical supplies.
Automated and AI-based digital channels such as WeChat, Facebook Messenger and chatbots collects data and improves patient care. Particularly in times when there is resource constraint and work is overload. Using online forms, healthcare digital companies are helping other companies to reduce abrasion online and encourage patients to get in touch with healthcare businesses through the available channels.
Blockchain to process healthcare claims
Ant Financial offered a blockchain platform that helps in speeding up claims processing and minimizes the amount of direct interaction between hospitals and patients. The clinical, administrative, and business divisions of healthcare systems are being taxed as they deal with the patients.
Prognostic analysis for developing drugs
So far many companies have used their prognostic competences to offer existing drugs that might be useful in trials of drugs being discovered. The current AI algorithm “DeepMind division” by Google and its computing power were used to study the proteins and published the results to help others to develop a therapy.
Online-prescription and online-Pharma
Technology companies are helping healthcare hospitals for online prescription of any medicines by diagnosing the patients and deliver medicines, test kits, personal protection equipment, and more to the people using pharma partnerships. The partner hospitals with online pharma companies are trying to cater to the necessary medicinal needs.
AI and data science have become perilous in helping citizens efficiently to deal with this epidemic.
Tech giants’ eagerness for digitalization
Many digital companies are trying to encash this opportunity to provide their best solutions with the latest technologies to deal with the current pandemic situation.
- Since Amazon is into the pharma industry and could use its expertise from the pharmaceutical supply chain to healthcare management, it has its trail in commercial pharma with Pillpack, Amazon Care, and HIPAA-compliant Smart Speakers.
- Apple with Hospital networks partnership will bring health records to consumers' iPhones, remote monitoring through iWatch and walled-garden for health data privacy and security.
- Google’s EHR solution OSCAR can take the leadership in AI & Cloud services and could take over the hospitals and create a digital care center.
With tech giants increasingly getting into healthcare, the question arises for data privacy and security. Taking that into consideration, many companies should think of converting privacy issue into customer’s data empowerment and opportunity. This means that consumers can provide permission to tech companies to share their data in exchange for discounted insurance premiums and/or cost of care.
The digital transformation in healthcare is gaining impetus after the COVID-19 pandemic. With great demand for healthcare services, healthcare service providers and digital leaders must embrace the varying requirements of customers to successfully enable digital transformation. The tech giants should also use this opportunity to disrupt and build systems to fight this pandemic with ‘healthcare design principles’ of interoperability, virtualization, decentralization, real-time capability, security and resilience.