Digital Transformation: Boon for the Healthcare Sector

By: Murali Krishnan, Associate Vice President, HCL Infosystems

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Murali Krishnan, Associate Vice President, HCL Infosystems
Murali Krishnan, Associate Vice President, HCL Infosystems

The healthcare sector is in the midst of rapid transformation. At a time when digitisation has begun to touch daily life, it can be hard for hospitals and the networks running them to keep up.Healthcare providers can focus on improving the quality of patient care by adopting digital technology and processes.

However, it is not enough to just adopt a new technology – the hospitals must have a clear digital strategy across their entire organization and IT infrastructure. To become a digital hospital, processes must be streamlined and re-engineered to create paperless automated digital workflows. Many functions within many hospitals are already on their way to becoming digital. For example, electronic medical records (EMRs) are being widely implemented to help track patient health data and support medical decisions. Digital medical imaging systems are quickening the process of reviewing medical images by physicians and other healthcare professionals.

Other functions and processes can also be digitized and automated including Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) that are used to locate equipment, patients and staff. With growing competition and shrinking margins, and the doctor-to-patient ratio pathetically low, healthcare providers have no option but to create a new market by adopting digital healthcare transformation.

Research shows that telemedicine is providing another exciting opportunity in a country like India. The medical infrastructure in the country is concentrated in the urban areas, while a substantial section of the population lives in rural areas with limited access to such facilities. This divide can be bridged by technology. Consultation through mobile devices using video, images, and audio channels can help patients who do not have access to good medical aid. According to a study by ASSOCHAM, India’s telemedicine market holds the potential to cross $ 32 million mark by 2020 at a CAGR of over 20 per cent.

Imagine an apartment complex in any of our metropolis or even a B class town, which has over 200 elderly members living all by themselves with their children living outside the country or even in the other parts of the country. I would envisage a situation where the medical records of all the members living in that community is held electronically. Further, if the elderly members of the community are tracked or monitored remotely with a sensor on their pendant or bangle then in case of any medical emergency for such patients, the emergency medical team right from the nursing staff to the doctors will be able to take informed decisions as they have the data of the patient readily available.

This certainly reduces a lot of ambiguity about time-critical information like allergy to drugs, current medication to manage medical condition, blood group, last medical health check-up so on and so forth. However, with such information not readily available, treatment of the patient has the potential to be catastrophic and in variance with the quality of care provided by the hospital. Hospitals should extend workflow through mobile health (mHealth) initiatives, which enables physicians and patients to use mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to record and find the right information and resources anytime from any location.

With the rapid advances in technology there are platformsavailable to accurately capture data from various sources, such as EMRs, wearables, clinical information systems, mobile devices and more. The future is about healthcare providers making use of such resources. Putting together data and providing the caregiver a holistic and real-time view of a patient’s health on any device that is accessible to the patients, or other specialists as needed, for the best ongoing care. And this is just one of the many ways digital workflow could look and how it will impact the patient and provider. The future is digital; we need to adapt to it as fast as we can.


 

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