IDG TechTalk
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IDG TechTalk

Health Care Gets a Dose of Digital Transformation

Health care, like most industries, is riding a giant wave of digital transformation, leveraging state-of-the-art technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to transform the patient experience, spark innovative therapies and treatment options, and improve efficiency across every stage of the value chain.

There are very few areas within health care delivery that haven’t been touched by some form of technology. And most of this new technology results in both incremental and radical change. Beyond the first round of electronic health records (EHRs) and enterprise systems that automated back-end business processes, technology is now appearing in clinical applications. Such changes have improved diagnostics as well as doctor-patient interactions, among other benefits.

For example, wearable devices and IoT let clinicians remotely monitor and treat patients from a distance. Data collected from these devices, combined with other sources, is helping create highly personalized medicine and treatment plans with dramatically improved patient results. According to a 2018 IoT study conducted by Futurum Research, 64% of healthcare IT and OT professionals cite IoT success as very or critically important to achieving their business priorities.

The May 24, 2018 the #IDGTechTalk Twitter chat was sponsored by DXC Technology. This well-attended chat provided a look at just how far technology has infiltrated health care delivery, and what’s expected in the future. Here are some highlights from the conversation:

Digital technologies are already enhancing the patient experience

Digital technology is having a two-fold impact on health care, according to the experts, who say it’s all about creating efficiency and convenience. Telemedicine, fueled by monitoring devices and online communications tools like FaceTime and Skype, gives patients in remote areas access to physicians without having to travel. At the same time, these technologies create efficiencies and cost savings by reducing the number of on-site visits. Trackers, wearables, and sensors can be useful for both doctors and patients, feeding real-time data to clinicians, providing continuous monitoring for drug interactions in patients, making sure at-risk people take their meds, and helping to avoid unexpected accidents or dosing issues.

One of the most compelling promises of digitalization in health care is personalized medicine. Data collected from medical devices, wearables, and patient EHRs can help clinicians better diagnose symptoms and proactively deliver alerts to advise patients experiencing arrhythmias or a spike in glucose in the proper protocols.

While technology improves the experience from a point of care perspective, it also prevents patients from having to keep track of appointments and day-to-day communications.

IoT, AI, and big data are poised to be the key disrupters

IoT devices and sensor-equipped medical equipment are producing steady streams of data that can be analyzed and mixed with other information sources to generate critical insights. Systems built with AI and machine learning algorithms will bring intelligence and automation into the equation, helping improve diagnostics, increase accuracy, assist in finding cures, mitigate mistakes, and more.

Beyond big data and AI, robotics, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and 3D printing are also having a big impact. AR, VR, and robotics are facilitating difficult surgeries while 3D printing is helping produce custom prosthetics, patient-specific surgical guides, even human organs.

Blockchain, a mathematical structure for storing and linking information or records in a highly secured way, is another technology that has huge potential, according to the #IDGTECHtalk audience. Participants see Blockchain helping facilitate everything from smart contracts to insurance payments.

With all the good, challenges remain, and security is a big one

Despite the potential, the usual barriers are slowing technology adoption in the healthcare sector, including limited budgets and organizational resistance to chance. Security and patient privacy are among the highest-priority concerns among companies due to strict regulations such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). At the same time, security issues are critical because data breaches can be dangerous to patients, even life threatening.

Analytics are taking root in both clinical and non-clinical use cases.

While there’s been a lot of focus on analytics improving diagnoses and personalizing patient outcomes, there’s also a lot of work underway to leverage AI, big data analytics, and machine learning to automate and bolster overall business productivity. Bots and chatbots are being used to automate the heavy lifting associated with administrative tasks, and will help establish proof points for expanding use of the technology for clinical applications, participants said.

Where is your health care organization on its digital transformation journey? We’d like to hear more in the comments below. As always, please join us every Thursday at 12pm ET for the #IDGTECHtalk. This week chat was sponsored DXC Technology.

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