Healthcare is going through its own digital transformation, driven by the expectation of today’s connected healthcare consumers who are demanding greater access, input and control of their personal care.
To meet these growing challenges, community healthcare and hospitals have realized that they need to re-evaluate the services they offer, moving away from simply volumes of services used and spotlighting value-based care. Developing a digital transformation strategy around technology is helping healthcare companies provide better access to services and improve care offered, whilst keeping costs in check.
Digital transformation in the healthcare industry is being accelerated by increasing demand for cloud-based services, budgets and also by an increasingly large ageing population. Market research analyst Grand View Research projects the eHealth market to reach $308 billion by 2022, up from $85 billion in 2014. Rising use of mobile technologies and the internet along with increasing adoption of home care by patients is expected to propel market growth upwards. eHealth provides cost-effective healthcare in both high and low-income countries, which has seen the World Health Organization (WHO) urging member states to draw up strategic plans for digital health services.
The benefits that are pushing digital transformation of healthcare, according to Grand View, include round the clock care services, wider and faster access to patient information, reduction of administrative and medical errors, self-monitoring and management by patients and centralization of the entire healthcare industry chain.
The backbone of digital transformation in healthcare is the streamlining of communications, which empowers staff and patients, provides real-time data access and enables efficient information sharing throughout the care delivery process.
In the UK, for example, mobile technology is being used to ease pressure on healthcare systems. Bristol Community Health, a provider of NHS-funded community healthcare, has reported improvements in staff satisfaction, patient experience and increased patient contact time following the introduction of a community health mobile workflow management solution.
Last year the first all-digital hospital in North America opened its doors. Humber River Regional Hospital in Toronto has moved way beyond the concept of digital records and telemedicine and has undergone a complete digital transformation, designed to create a seamless, paperless connected health experience for patients, doctors and nursing staff.
eHealth adoption flourishing
In Europe as a whole there is an increasing appetite for eHealth. Currently, 70 per cent of EU member states have an eHealth policy or strategy, according to a WHO report on eHealth in the region released this year. 59 per cent of member states already have electronic health record systems and 72 per cent are utilizing remote patient monitoring. In addition, 81 per cent of member states reported that healthcare organizations are using social media to promote health messages.
In a report on US healthcare, Goldman Sachs singled out the Internet of Things as the next big wave in the healthcare industry. Analysts believes it could trigger savings of up to $305 billion on healthcare, with as much as $200 billion coming from chronic disease management.
The report notes that digital transformation will require behavioral change in healthcare and this can be a challenge, but it maintains the environment is now ripe for change. “The current system and outlook for cost necessitates radical change, and we see digital health as a vehicle through which to accomplish that” it explained.
Big data and analytics: ripe for exploration
Health analytics and big data hold significant potential for healthcare, but according to WHO European region these areas are not being explored fast enough as part of digital change. At present only 6 countries have a national policy or strategy regulating the use of Big Data in the health sector, and few regulate the use of Big Data by private companies. WHO believes that when public health authorities do start to take action, commercial organizations will be quick to exploit the potential of the healthcare sector.
“The 21st century has swept in on a wave of technology, bringing with it a huge range of possibilities for innovation in health. In many countries, eHealth is revolutionizing health care delivery and the health information needed to support it,” explained Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
But WHO thinks there is still much to be done to drive digital change. “E-health saves lies and money; yet, despite many inspiring examples of progress, it is clear that e-Health is not being adopted evenly across the region. Stronger investment in e-Health is needed in order to achieve the Health 2020 policy objectives,” added Jakab.
Only 17 countries in European have yet to establish a dedicated telehealth policy or strategy for example. Surprisingly, 22 European countries do not have a body that is responsible for regulatory oversight of mobile health apps for quality, safety and reliability, despite widespread use of the technology.
A healthy future
The healthcare industry is going through massive technological change as part of its digital transformation. Digital technologies are underpinning new care models that will help meet patient expectations and change the face of healthcare forever.
Read about politics and eHealth in Europe.
Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.