Last year I saw an article in The Atlantic magazine where Derek Thompson points out how disasters have a way of forcing a positive change in the long run:
“The 21st-century city is the child of catastrophe. The comforts and infrastructure we take for granted were born of age-old afflictions: fire, flood, and pestilence. Our tall buildings, our subways, our subterranean conduits, our systems for bringing water in and taking it away, our building codes and public-health regulations – all were forged in the aftermath of urban disasters.”
We are facing a similar crisis today. With hard work and the right tools, we can learn from the current pandemic to prepare for and prevent future disasters.
It has been a year since COVID-19 forced most of us into lockdown, changed the way we live, and businesses operate. The healthcare industry was among the first ones to suffer. Its conservative and complex nature combined with often outdated regulations delay the adoption of technologies that more progressive industries have had for years.
With a rapid increase in the virus-driven patient flow, systems that were in place in most healthcare facilities simply couldn’t adapt quickly enough. Hospitals had to take care of Covid patients, leaving people with pre-existing conditions and many others unattended. Surgeries and non-critical doctor appointments were often canceled. And as the pandemic got worse, the situation in hospitals continued to deteriorate.
Crises are an opportunity to drive innovation
2020 demonstrated that the stagnating healthcare industry can be transformed rapidly through digitalization and the adoption of new technologies. Healthcare facilities that stepped up to the challenge managed to continue tending to a growing number of patients by moving providers to virtual delivery platforms. Patients found virtual visits more convenient, cost-effective, and faster as there’s no traveling involved. More importantly, online visits minimize the exposure to the virus and high-traffic areas such as hospitals.
The adoption of virtual care is just one of the much-needed improvements to the industry’s outdated technology infrastructure. As a long-time healthcare entrepreneur, I believe that the following trends will play a fundamental role in shaping the future of the sector.
1. Multi-source data-driven analytics
Digitizing data is vital, but it is not enough. Effectively processing vast amounts of data in real-time will enable health care professionals to go from reactive to proactive. For example, next-gen systems will combine a patient’s medical history with readings from the patient’s smart wearable to generate valuable analytics and highlight overlooked areas.
A continuous flow of processed information will help healthcare professionals make better-informed decisions. By using remote sensors, patients can get the care they need anytime and anywhere, at a much lower cost. Making healthcare both more affordable and more accessible for rural populations.
2. Routine operations automation
Effective automation puts patients at the center and allows clinicians to focus on diagnosis and interactions with patients instead of spending precious time on documentation and other routine tasks. No matter how care is delivered, online or in person, automation has become more beneficial as more facilities embrace digitalization.
3. Cloud-based infrastructure
Healthcare companies generate and manage a lot of sensitive data that needs to be kept safe and protected at all times. All storage systems need to be meticulously evaluated for individual solutions, but cloud-based storage is better than on-premise more often than not.
Data stored in the cloud updates in real-time, enabling healthcare professionals to collaborate and access information vital for diagnoses, treatment, and ongoing care. With many possible integrations between applications, systems, and third parties, the cloud is much more versatile when it comes to electronic health records.
In the event of hardware failure, power loss, or data breaches, healthcare providers can quickly and easily restore cloud data with minimal disruption or interruption to patient care.
4. Artificial Intelligence applications
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming nearly every industry, and healthcare is no exception. So far, AI has been used in chatbots and virtual health assistants with success, but the technology will slowly expand to real clinical applications.
AI promises to improve the diagnosis process, enhance the way physicians interpret medical data, help organize medical documentation to reduce burnout of clinical staff, and augment care teams’ overall capabilities.