Technology & Innovation

Healthcare comes of age with digitalisation


23 Nov 2021

Indeed, healthcare services have come of age in the digital world.
Consider this: US based Mayo Clinic has announced that it will serve more than 200 million patients annually across the globe through smartphone technology, internet communication and telemedicine.
By integrating medical know-how and IT technologies, it becomes realistic to use smartphones to do round-the-clock monitoring of a patient’s vital data like blood pressure and oxygen saturation, body temperature, intake of prescribed medicines, even whether the patient has slipped and fallen down the stairs at home.
The future looks bright. The digitalisation of healthcare promises, experts say, to enable the elderly to stay longer in the comfort of their homes rather than be admitted to retirement homes.
It is also seen to avoid needless hospital admissions. Best of all, it gives greater push to efforts on preventive health care, experts also claim.
In a nutshell, medical practitioners opine that the digital transformation of healthcare is the “positive impact” of technology in this field of science.
It’s all about striving to innovate – which is why we now have a continuing progress in the field of telemedicine, for instance; even as Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled medical devices and blockchain electronic health records make better patient-medical professional relations possible, especially in the area of data-sharing among healthcare providers and the decision-making process regarding treatment schedules.
Such that what we look forward to, and thanks to digitalisation, are streamlined physicians’ work, reduced human error improved patients’ conditions, reduced cost and optimised systems – all through, once again, smartphone apps.
So, what’s up ahead?
First off, would be the rise of on-demand healthcare, which is a result of the smartphone revolution where, according to recent studies, in the first quarter of 2021, mobile devices (excluding tablets) generated 54.8 percent of global website traffic, consistently hovering around the 50 per cent mark since the beginning of 2017.
Adding to this is the so-called “gig economy” where doctors engage themselves with an online marketplace that connects them directly to medical centres for short-term work – or gig – instead of hanging on to a particular hospital. This enables these medical professionals to provide on-demand health care to patients who match their competencies.
And then there is big data. The healthcare industry benefits a lot from big data in so many ways ranging from lower rate of errors guaranteed through a more accurate patient record analysis with help from a software that can red flag irregularities that may lead to a probable risk of error, to a more sophisticated preventive health care by way of identifying “frequent flyers,” or patients who, time and again, seek emergency treatment, accounting for, studies showed, close to 30 percent of ER visits.
Big data also helps in the push for a more accurate hospital staffing by coming up with a “predictive analysis” essential in estimating admission rates that, in turn, reduces ER waiting time, not to mention saving money.

Meantime, virtual reality (VR) is fast becoming, yes, a reality.

According to experts, VR technology is being employed to treat pain, stroke, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others. There have also been instances where medical practitioners use VR technology to further improve their specialisation or plan for complicated surgeries.

VR is a very potent communication means that enables medical practitioners to get a better grasp of their patients’ needs.
Oh and yes, wearables are, undeniably, offshoots of digitalisation in healthcare, too.
Back in the day, eating apples was enough “because it keeps the doctor away,” and a regular, at least yearly, visit to a healthcare professional.
Not anymore. Wearable medical devices – Heart rate sensors; exercise trackers; sweat meters to monitor blood sugar levels of diabetic people; and oximeters, which checks oxygen carried in the blood – are in demand these days.
And it’s a big leap towards preventive healthcare, thanks once again to digitalisation.
Capping it up are praises for AI. Why?
More than chatbots and VR assistants, AI has been very instrumental in the fight against the Big C through precision medicine, imaging and genomics.
For instance, through AI’s pattern recognition, patients are able to receive personalised treatment that fits their make-up.
Experts say, and in layman’s words for the benefit of everyone, that through AI, pathology images of various cancers are studied, resulting to promising and accurate diagnoses and the best possible drug combinations.