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Prevention, not cure: digital transformation of the healthcare sector

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Whether its operations, tech or data, healthcare institutions have been forced to mature through a rapid digital transformation.

Over the last 12 months, it has become more evident than ever before just how critical our healthcare systems and providers are. Perhaps more so than other industries, we are seeing the sector evolve at warp-speed to keep up with heightened demand. Whether its operations, tech or data, healthcare institutions have been forced to mature through a rapid digital transformation that the world was not prepared for.

There have been waves of transformation before, although not adopted everywhere. Take CIGNA in the U.S. and other global markets, and Nuffield in the UK, for example – both companies have been taking an approach to nurturing wellbeing with their customers for more than a decade. CIGNA has been involved in encouraging community participation in sport, in addition to offering health insurance. Nuffield has bought gyms, and dedicated resources to curating insights and information, all while managing its network of hospitals. In the Middle East, we’ve recently seen the ‘Saudi German Hospital’ rebrand to encompass a far broader offering, with ‘Saudi German Health’ now including everything from education to community medical care in its operations and customer offerings.

One trend that has significantly increased over the last year is higher digital engagement with customers. Specifically for the healthcare sector, telehealth is on the rise in many countries, allowing accessibility to physicians that many patients would not otherwise have access to during the pandemic. A recent survey by vHealth says that more than half of expats in the UAE are likely to use telehealth services. A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states there was a 154 per cent increase in telehealth visits during the last week of March 2020, compared with the same period in 2019 in the U.S.

Along with the innovation in operations and tech, the role that data plays is exponentially growing in the industry. New innovation to manage and adapt to demand using a ‘predict and prescribe’ methodology to plan based on trends is being utilised. Healthcare providers – and their procurement departments – are increasingly using data to deliver efficiencies and cost savings throughout their facilities. In addition, more efficient data and information management is helping to speed up decision making at all levels of organisations. Finally, we have seen more secure and systematic methods for managing and sharing patient data.

Healthcare providers have access to data and as the world increasingly embraces digitalisation, providers will have access to more and more information. Managing patient data comes with sensitivities that are enforced by Government ministries, so data needs to be held safely and securely, accessed and stored in line with regulations.

In the same way that leading providers are moving towards a prevention – not cure approach – behind the scenes, patient data is increasingly being managed in a way that offers protection and prevention. The healthcare industry is transforming before our eyes, with the help of technology and data. The onus is now on healthcare providers, as much as regulators, to ensure this is being done safely and securely.

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Samer Kamal

This article appears in the latest issue of Omnia Health Magazine. Read the full issue online today.

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