The Impact of Digital Transformation in Healthcare

Technology is transforming the way people bank, travel and shop. But, it has yet to make significant inroads into the healthcare industry.

Digital transformation in healthcare is a building block of a patient-focused approach to healthcare. It will help healthcare providers streamline operations, understand what the patient requires, build loyalty and trust and offer a better user experience. 

Moreover, collecting and extracting data provided by digital communications will prove valuable. Understanding the needs and behaviors of target users, healthcare providers will analyze new ways to add value by building loyalty and trust. 

As a healthcare provider, you should understand that keeping up with digital transformation in healthcare can be overwhelming. Selecting which technology is worth investing in might be challenging for a healthcare leader. Adapting to the digital era means avoiding outdated business processes and believing that technological disruption will deliver significant results. 

The US Healthcare market is tremendous and its digital health market is expected to reach 504.4 Billion USD in 2025 from 86.4 Billion in 2018, at a CAGR of 29.6%. However, you need a complete picture of the modern digital healthcare landscape to transform the standard practice in 2020. 

In this article, we shall be discussing the role of emerging technologies in the digital transformation of healthcare and what it requires to develop a viable healthcare tech solution. 

Here’s how different technology trends can contribute to digital transformation in the healthcare industry

1. Telemedicine

Remember the time when you would schedule an appointment with the doctor and wait for a couple of hours in the hospital or clinic? After getting the tests done, you would have to wait for many days to get results and revisit the doctor.

Thankfully, that’s the bygone era. 

Many innovative solutions are transforming the way patients interact with healthcare professionals. From searching a doctor to scheduling a virtual appointment and communicating with doctors via video or voice call, telemedicine solutions enable people’s access to health professionals on demand. 

Telemedicine evolution is one of the most significant transformations in the US healthcare market. In a big country like the USA, where access to healthcare providers is limited, telemedicine is emerging rigorously. 90% of surveyed healthcare executives revealed that organizations started building or integrating a telemedicine system. 

One of the best examples of telehealth technology is virtual appointments between patients and doctors. Remote or rural areas where access to healthcare is limited, virtual appointments facilitate patients to communicate with doctors. Patients facing mobility challenges can use telemedicine to interact with health professionals. 

Telehealth technology can also be used to manage patients at high risk and enable health professionals to track the patient’s conditions and activities remotely via IoT-based health sensors and wearable devices. 

It is essential to consider that the telemedicine app or solution should comply with legislation in your targeted regions or country. We have built a telemedicine app for healthcare institutes that facilitate doctors to interact with both existing and new patients and patients to communicate with existing doctors via video, voice or text chat. 

2. Using Big Data in Healthcare

Big Data is transforming the way we analyze, leverage and manage data in every industry. Healthcare is one of the promising industries where it can be implemented to avoid preventable diseases, enhance the quality of life, reduce treatment costs and forecast outbreaks of epidemics. 

Health professionals can collect a massive amount of data and find the best strategies to use the data. Using Big Data in Healthcare can have positive and life-saving outcomes.

With emerging technologies, it has become easier to not only collect essential healthcare data but also convert it into valuable insights to provide better care. Using data-driven insights, health professionals can predict and solve an issue before it gets late. 

Let’s understand how big data can be used in healthcare and what benefits does it provide.

  • Patients prediction for improved staffing
    Healthcare shift manager usually faces an issue of how many people should they put on staff at any specific time. If a manager keeps too many workers, you may have the risk of unwanted labor costs and resources. On the other side, having too few workers can also result in poor customer service outcomes that can be riskier for the patient’s health.  

    Big Data can solve this issue. Data from a wide array of sources can be used to generate daily and hourly predictions of how many patients are expected to be at the hospital or clinic. In Paris, four hospitals that are part of the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris has used a variety of sources like 10 years of hospital admission records to provide daily and hourly predictions of how many patients are expected to be at the hospital at any specific time. 

    Therefore, collecting data and using it to discover patterns to predict behavior can help improve staffing by predicting patients’ admission rates. 

  • Real-time Alerting
    Real-time alerting is also one of the crucial examples of big data analytics in the healthcare industry. Hospitals use Clinical Decision Support Software to analyze medical data on the spot and provide health practitioners with advice to help them make informed decisions.

    Wearable devices are used to collect the patient’s health data continuously and send it to the cloud. For example, if a patient’s heartbeat increases suddenly, the system sends a real-time notification to the doctor who can then take action to lower the rate and reach the patient. 

    Since IoT devices generate a massive amount of data, implementing intelligence on it can help health professionals make important decisions and get real-time alerts. 

  • Informed Strategic Planning using Health Data
    Big data in healthcare facilitates strategic planning. Healthcare managers can analyze the results of patients’ checkups in various demographics groups. Also, they can find out factors that discourage people from taking up treatment. 

    The University of Florida used free global health data and Google Maps to create heat maps targeted at specific issues like chronic diseases and population growth. Therefore, healthcare data can also be used for planning informed strategies. 

  • Preventing Human Errors
    Many times, it has been found that the professionals either tend to dispatch a different medication or prescribe a wrong medicine by mistake. Big data can be used to reduce such errors by analyzing prescribed medicine and user data.

    Prescription data collected from different medical professionals can be monitored using the big data healthcare tool. The software can flag up prescription mistakes made by any physicians and help save many lives. 

3. Internet of Things

Before the introduction of the Internet of Things, patient and doctor interactions were only restricted to physical visits and text communications. Doctors or hospitals had no way to track the patient’s health continuously and take action accordingly. 

IoT-enabled devices facilitate remote monitoring in the healthcare industry, unlocking the potential to keep patients healthy and safe and allowing physicians to provide better care. Since IoT has made interactions with doctors efficient and easier, it has improved patient satisfaction and engagement. 

Also, remote monitoring of patients’ health helps in preventing re-admissions and decreasing the duration of stay in the hospital. IoT can also reduce healthcare costs and improves treatment outcomes. 

IoT is changing the healthcare industry by remodeling people’s interaction in providing healthcare solutions. Implementation of IoT in healthcare benefits physicians, hospitals, patients and insurance companies. 

  • IoT for physicians 
    With home monitoring equipment embedded with IoT sensors and wearable devices, physicians can monitor patients’ health in real-time. IoT allows healthcare professionals to become more watchful and interact with patients proactively. Data gathered from IoT devices can help doctors find out the best treatment process for patients and get the expected outcomes. 

  • IoT for patients 
    Devices such as fitness bands and wirelessly connected heart rate monitoring cuffs provide patients access to personalized attention. IoT devices are used to remind doctor appointments, calorie count, number of steps taken in a day, blood pressure, heart rate and much more.

    IoT enables real-time remote monitoring and is beneficial for elderly patients. It uses an alert mechanism and sends a notification to concerned healthcare providers and family members. 

  • IoT for hospitals and clinics
    Apart from tracking patients’ health, IoT devices can be used in many other areas in hospitals. IoT devices embedded with sensors are used for monitoring the real-time location of medical equipment, including nebulizers, wheelchairs, oxygen pumps and other equipment.

    Hospitals also have to deal with the spread of infection that is the primary concern for them. IoT-based hygiene monitoring devices assist in preventing patients from getting the infection. For example, smart IoT-enabled cameras can detect if patients are washing or sanitizing their hands before taking a meal or medication or visitors are not sitting close to the patient.

    Also, IoT devices can help in managing assets, for example, monitoring refrigerator temperature and humidity. 

  • IoT for health insurance companies
    With IoT-connected devices, health insurers can seamlessly perform their underwriting and claims operations. Data captured from health monitoring devices can be used by insurance companies to identify fraudulent claims and detect underwriting prospects.

    IoT devices introduce transparency between customers and insurers in the underwriting, claims management, risk assessment process and pricing. 

    Insurers can retain customers by rewarding them for using and sharing health data captured by IoT devices. They can give incentives if a person keeps track of their routine activities and maintains a healthy lifestyle. It will help insurers reduce claims drastically. 

    Insurers can also verify the claims with the help of data generated from IoT devices. 

IoT can contribute to digital transformation in healthcare with the massive amount of data generated by IoT devices. IoT technology has a simple four-step architecture that can imply to any of the industries. 

The diagram shown below represents how IoT-enabled devices work. 

Read more to learn about healthcare IoT devices. 

4. Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality is a technology that uses the computer-generated simulation of a 3-D image or environment that allows a person to hear, see and interact using special equipment, for example, headsets. 

The technology creates a simulated environment where users can immerse in. Unlike traditional user interfaces, VR takes users inside a virtual experience instead of only displaying a screen. 

The Healthcare industry is adopting virtual reality to deliver better care to patients. For example, one of the patients was getting chemotherapy every week for around 6 years to treat colon cancer. She used to spend her 4.5 hours during the chemo session reading books, chatting or watching TV. 

During infusion, she sometimes wanted to go to beaches to relax. Unfortunately, she was unable to go in real life as her skin was too sensitive to go out in the sunlight. But Virtual Reality made her dream come true by simulating a beach-like environment where she could feel like she was sitting on the beach and enjoying the sunbath.

She is not only the one who is fond of using virtual reality in a healthcare setting, but many patients love this experience when getting treated. 

From the clinic to medical rooms, the virtual reality is exploding and expected to continue to grow in the coming years. According to the research by GlobeNewsWire, the market for Virtual Reality in Healthcare will reach $7 billion by 2026. 

Healthcare is still in its early stages of the technology; therefore, the healthcare industry has started to realize where it can be used and challenges posed by the VR. 

Here’s how VR can help the healthcare industry:

  • Pain Reduction
    Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC, piloted a program in 2019 that included a virtual reality headset for children who required procedures like removing stitches, sutures and foreign bodies in emergency rooms. 

    The program involved around 40 children aged between 7 to 23. Each child was provided a VR headset covered in protective gear to cut down germs. Then, children selected between different scenarios, including walking through a jungle, talking with a friendly snake and taking a roller coaster ride. VR headsets were connected to screens so that parents could see what their children were watching. 

    During the whole activity, kids did not experience any pain and parents were thrilled as their child was happy and tolerated the procedure peacefully. 

    Therefore, many healthcare institutes are adopting VR technology for pain reduction therapies. 

  • Pacing up recovery in physical therapy
    With VR, you can make physical therapy for patients more enjoyable by engaging them in a simulated environment. One of the researches revealed that children with cerebral palsy witnessed a significant improvement in their mobility after VR therapy.

    Neuro Rehab VR, one of the leading providers in Virtual Reality Physical Therapy, has introduced a gamified approach to physical therapy. The company has developed VR training exercises with machine learning to customize each exercise to the patient’s therapeutic requirements.

    That’s how VR is being used widely in speeding up recovery in physical therapy. 

  • VR simulations to understand problems from someone else’s perspective 
     Embodied Labs uses Virtual Reality to simulate what it seems like to live with existing health conditions. It allows people to experience life from someone else’s perspective by wearing a VR headset and interacting with 360-degree videos.

    The company’s first lab, We are Alfred, converts users into Alfred, a 74-year old African-American who has high-frequency hearing loss and macular degeneration. 

    “Students would put on the headset, and even though they would read in their introduction that they were about to embody Alfred, they would immediately say, ‘There’s something broken, I can’t see.’ Or, ‘Turn up the volume, I can’t hear,’ and then realize [that was the point],” Shaw, Founder of Embodied Labs, says.

    With VR, Embodied Labs can adjust what wearer can’t or can see and hear. 

    Therefore, such VR simulations help people understand how someone suffering from deadly disease feels and experiences. It can also help students who are researching and studying that specific disease to understand its symptoms and what it feels like in real life. 

5. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence simplifies the lives of doctors, patients and hospital admins by doing tasks that are usually done by humans at a fraction of cost and in less time. 

From finding links between genetic codes to driving surgery-assisting robots, surveying chronic diseases and conducting the risk assessment, AI is reinventing and revitalizing modern healthcare through machines that can comprehend, predict, learn and act. 

AI provides a number of advantages over clinical decision-making and traditional analytics. Learning algorithms can become more accurate and precise when they interact with training data. It allows humans to gain unprecedented insights into care processes, treatment variability, patient outcomes and diagnostics. 

Here are some of the ways AI is poised to bring digital transformation in healthcare 

  • Diagnosing and reducing errors
    Medical error and misdiagnosing illness led resulted in 10% of all deaths in the US. AI is one of the most exciting technologies that promise to improve diagnostic processes. 

    Large caseloads and incomplete medical histories can result in deadly human errors. However, AI can help predict and diagnose diseases fastly than any medical professionals. For example, in one of the studies, an AI model used algorithms and deep learning to diagnose breast cancer at a higher rate than 11 pathologists. 

    Breast cancer is found to be the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the US and screening mammography has been observed to reduce mortality. 

    Computer-assisted detection and diagnosis (CAD) software have been built in the 1990s to help radiologists enhance the predictive analytics of screening mammography. Unluckily, data suggested that early CAD systems had not led to an improvement in performance. 

    However, the remarkable success of deep learning in visual object detection and recognition, deep learning tools assisted radiologists in improving the accuracy of screening mammography. 

  • Analytics for Pathology Images
    Pathologists provide one of the essential sources of diagnostic data for providers across the spectrum of care delivery.

    According to Jeffrey Golden, MD, Chair of the Department of Pathology and a Professor of Pathology at HMS, “Seventy percent of all decisions in healthcare are based on a pathology result. Somewhere between 70 and 75 percent of all the data in an EHR are from a pathology result.  So the more accurate we get, and the sooner we get to the right diagnosis, the better we’re going to be.  That’s what digital pathology and AI has the opportunity to deliver.”

    One of the digital pathology platforms, Proscia, uses AI to identify patterns in cancer cells. It helps pathologists remove bottlenecks from data management and leverage AI-enabled image analysis to link data points that support cancer diagnosis and treatment. 

    AI can also enhance productivity by exploring features of interest in slides before a clinician reviews the data. 

  • Converting smartphone selfies into powerful diagnostic tools 
    Harnessing the power of portable devices, experts assume that images captured from smartphones and other sources can be an essential supplement to medical quality imaging – especially in developing nations.

    Since the quality of smartphones is improving every year, phones can produce images that are viable for analysis by AI algorithms. Some of the researchers in the UK have built a tool that recognizes developmental diseases by analyzing a child’s face image. The algorithm can identify discrete features, such as the child’s eye and nose placement, jawline and other attributes that indicate a craniofacial abnormality. Therefore, it’s an excellent opportunity for us to convert a lot of data into valuable insights.

    Smartphones can be used to collect images of skin lesions, wounds, medications, infections or eyes to help underserved areas manage a shortage of specialists while reducing the time to diagnosis for some complaints. 

  • Management of Electronic Health Records
    Data (including patient information, new research findings and diagnosis details), also called “Electronic Health Record (EHR),” is generated in large volumes every day in the healthcare industry. The implementation of Artificial Intelligence in EHRs helps organizations gain insights to collaborate with patients and make informed decisions.

    Electronic health record systems, combined with AI, can provide healthcare professionals with the ability to manage their observations instead of adding the data manually. In EHRs, AI provides healthcare professionals the opportunity to examine the existing data and extract significant insights that they can use to give recommendations. 

    AI facilitates healthcare professionals to leverage the information in EHRs, transforming them into virtual assistants that can deliver value to healthcare professionals. 

    With AI-powered EHR, healthcare professionals can get notification about things they should consider when recommending a drug or treatment. For example, if a medicine is not good for a patient based on the profiling of patients’ genes, the AI-based system can provide a more relevant recommendation. 

  • Drug and Vaccine Creation
    Before understanding how AI contributes to the development of drugs, let’s understand the cycle of development of drugs.

    Researchers find out a target protein that’s causing the disease. They examine such proteins diligently for a long time. Otherwise, there can be a significant risk of losing a lot of money on the wrong protein. Then, the research protein tries to explore a molecule or a compound that would affect the protein. The compound should be able to modify the protein to determine the disease-causing protein effectively.       

    During the process, ineffective compounds are thrown aside and only safe and efficient compounds are taken ahead for the development of drugs. The entire process is manual and time-consuming; therefore, AI comes into the picture. 

    As there are hundreds and thousands of molecules out there, human researchers are not able to test each of these molecules manually. Yet, without testing each of the molecules, it is not possible to determine which molecule would be the most relevant to fight against a specific disease. 

    Using AI, first of all, experts would feed in the parameters. They search through all the molecules and every molecule is compared against parameters. The AI-enabled system will keep learning from the generated data and find out one or more compounds that are most equipped to fight the disease.     

    Similarly, vaccines can be developed and tested successfully with the help of artificial intelligence. 

  • Automating repetitive processes
    AI technology is poised to automate repetitive tasks of the healthcare industry, setting administrators free to work on higher-level ones. From eligibility checks to data migrations and non-judicial claims, everything can be automated so that staffers can emphasize on offering better patient service.

    Olive, one of the AI-as-a-service tools can be integrated easily into a hospital’s existing software, removing the need for expensive downtimes or integrations. 

  • Notifying doctors when patients are in trouble  
    Many hospitals all over the world are using Google’s DeepMind Health AI to help drive patients from diagnosing to treatment efficiently. The DeepMind Health Program alerts doctors when a patient’s health gets worsen and can even assist in the diagnosis of diseases by searching through the massive dataset for related symptoms.

    By gathering patients’ symptoms and entering them into the DeepMind platform, the doctor can detect the disease more efficiently and quickly. 

6. Alexa

The voice assistant from Amazon has already been successful in the lifestyles of people and smart offices. In the next few years, nurses, doctors, patients and pharmacists will be using Alexa in their professions. 

Voice technology like Alexa can enable communication between healthcare providers and patients. 

  • Enabling Diabetes Patients to Manage their Solution Effectively
    AWS and Merck & Co., Inc. together initiated the Alexa Diabetes Challenge in 2018 with a $250,000 prize pot. Wellpepper became the winner with its Sugarpod, a clinically-tested and Alexa-based digital platform for the management of diabetes. 

    Using Sugarpod, Alexa can help diabetics patients handle their treatment and track progress effectively. It shows how Alexa can be implemented to transform chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. 

  • Enhancing interaction in the hospital
    One of the startups in Los Angeles, Aiva, uses an Alexa-enabled platform to help patients communicate with caretakers like nurses and manage in-house entertainment. With this platform, patients can ask Alexa to switch on/off the television, change the channel and call the caretakers using their mobile phone. It facilitates patients to seek quick assistance and many experts think that this interactive technology can also eliminate loneliness for patients.
  • Managing blood pressure with Alexa Skills
    At a time when life seems stressful, one of the popular medical equipment companies, Omron has launched a watch, called “HeartGuide,” which can measure blood pressure and send readings with an Alexa skill.
  • Reducing wait times
    Hospitals can enable Alexa Skills using which patients can fetch contact information for particular departments. Using that Alexa skill, it can save both time and stress by informing patients about the wait time in each clinic or hospital. It helps the patient reach on time and prevents critical situations.  

Conclusion

Digital transformation is an ongoing process and new trends are emerging in the healthcare industry with each passing day. When you pursue digital transformation in healthcare, you need to think beyond the technology needed to drive innovation. 

You can select the technology you want to implement to deliver better patient care from the above list of technologies based on your needs and requirements. If you want to build a technology solution for your healthcare startup or healthcare institute, consult our healthcare software developers who have expertise in different technologies, including AI, IoT, VR, Big Data and Blockchain.  

Author’s Bio

Akash Takyar
Akash Takyar
CEO LeewayHertz
Akash Takyar is the founder and CEO at LeewayHertz. With the experience of building over 100+ platforms for startups and enterprise allows Akash to rapidly architect and design solutions that are scalable and beautiful.
Akash's ability to build enterprise-grade technology solutions has attracted over 30 Fortune 500 companies, including Siemens, 3M, P&G and Hershey’s. Akash is an early adopter of new technology, a passionate technology enthusiast, and an investor in AI and IoT startups.

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