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Digital Innovations set in motion a new age for healthcare

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Dr. Manish Kohli, Senior Advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group speaks about the innovations paving the pathway for healthcare systems.

Do you think that digital healthcare transformation equates to positive patient outcomes?

Healthcare transformation has been catalysed by digital tools and technologies since the onset of the pandemic. In contrast to other industries, healthcare faced challenges to evolve their traditional methods and adopt an approach to deliver towards a broad patient requirement. Quality and accessibility are prerequisites in healthcare systems for patients; however, these areas have been lacking in the present landscape. As a physician who practiced in the paper-based world and witnessed the early wave of technology, our practices and experiences have not grown exponentially. COVID-19 has set in motion design thinking and bringing solutions to the forefront. Tools and technology, which existed for a long time in the industry are now being adopted at a pace that we only dreamed about. We are at an exciting point in time, with talented professionals taking charge to transform the healthcare industry.

 

In terms of innovations that are already in place in the healthcare industry, how will they evolve further and be used by the healthcare industry?

Virtualisation of work and care has become a pillar of all industries, within healthcare telehealth was rapidly adopted. Pre COVID, telehealth was a topic of discussion with reservations surrounding it, however, the pandemic made regulators willing to enable the practice of medicine across territory lines. Payers and insurance organisations supporting the notion of virtual care through reimbursements led to its vast acceptance.

However, when we discuss digital transformation, it goes beyond virtual care and digital health. The future of healthcare ecosystems is going to be competitive, and this is where the fundamental building blocks of technology will be recognised. Data centers, servers, and hosting applications will be tools of the past, and cloud systems will gain prominence. There are numerous benefits of this, large data can be processed through the integration of environments, insights can be delivered immediately to proceed with the appropriate form of care. Microservices, artificial intelligence, analytics, and artificial intelligence are tools that drive data collected in cloud systems that describe back-end architecture and IoT.  

The power that IoT is the internet of things, enables devices and sensors to leap from the self to the quantified self. All this data funneled into the healthcare enterprise creates an immense power to create digital twins. This surpasses patient care and addresses processing within the enterprise as well. For example, picture a scenario where a healthcare facility has a robust infrastructure and AI analytics engine, with prominent data coming transferred seamlessly in across the enterprise from other facilities as well, which have patient history. Now health systems have the ability to create digital twins of patients, procedures, processes, and simulate them, to see what the impact is going to be on quality, access, and cost before they implement a solution. Therefore, the risk of attempting a procedure is mitigated, as physicians can plan better using the tools and technologies that are available.

However, there are challenges. As work environments have moved outside the four walls of every enterprise, cybersecurity is on everybody’s mind. Now we are not only in an era of bring your own device but bring your own environments. When working from home there are vulnerabilities potentially in that home environment, which stops us from thinking about how we shore up the entire ecosystem to protect the data. This is where technologies like blockchain step in.

The final piece is improving and integrating efficiency tools. Physicians and nurses would experience burnout due to the significant time spent interacting with technologists entering data. Ambient voice recognition and natural language processing are providing an efficient solution through features that enable a note which would be pre-structured to be transcribed without excessive editing. These experiences will enhance both patient and provider relationships and experiences. Pre Covid, the conventional wisdom was that the elderly will be slow to adopt the technology. However, when we look at the data from the pandemic, the elderly have been one of the fastest adopters of telehealth solutions.

In addition, when we analyse patient experience and satisfaction with telehealth and virtual care solutions, there have been findings that indicate that they are preferred and better than, impersonal visits due to convenience. To conclude, we are at the cusp of tremendous possibilities for innovation and historically we used to leave innovation to specialists, now we are getting low source code solutions, which allow frontline workers to be engaged in the part of innovation.

When we look at any industry, the best solutions come from the frontlines, not from the backend. The ability for clinical care teams and non-clinical care teams to be innovators, but also for IT teams to learn about business processes is crucial. It creates an effective ecosystem internally, that fosters greater innovation, leveraging all the tools mentioned. Therefore, the pandemic and all the tragedy that it has caused, has been a rude awakening.

Is there still a possibility that we are in a transition period and will be a percentage of offline patients? How will we evolve from this, or are we going to swing back to the conventional offline practices?

We're very much in a transition period, but it's also true that we cannot think in absolutes. As a whole, when you think about the penetration of technology in modern society, globally, the adoption of mobile phones is increasing. In fact, more people have access to a mobile phone worldwide than they do to toothbrushes and clean water. Imagine the power it creates in connecting resources to people who need them. Telehealth for instance will not solve every problem, it will provide a solution. Less than even 30% of the care can be offloaded from oversubscribed, health systems, clinics, and hospitals and delivered in a remote location. All of a sudden, you have a 30% capacity gain, which can be purposed for patients who really need it, such as high acuity complex care surgical care patients, therefore we can look at democratising access to care. We are starting to look at how we deliver care and create efficiencies in the infrastructure that currently exists. In terms of new models of care, we are gradually moving away from health system-centered care to patient-centered care, where health systems, clinics, hospitals, ancillary facilities, and other needed services revolve around the patient.

We are entering an era of digitally connected, distributed models of care and as health systems begin to adjust to the new reality, the question is how we go beyond telehealth and virtual care to a future state where we can be with the patient while delivering high-quality care and value. Now, the fundamental question that everybody asks is, well, will technology replace the doctor? And my answer is absolutely not. In today's day and age, and according to some studies, doctors spend as much as 50% of their time, looking for information or entering information or administrative tasks related to patient care, but nondirect patient care. Doctors and nurses are highly skilled resources that need to spend time on more patient procedures. In fact, there's undersupply and there's a shortage of doctors and nurses globally. Our first step has to be how do we begin to create paradigms and systems that allow doctors and nurses to be more efficient.

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