Covid-19 has acted as a catalyst for the digital transformation initiatives, which are now the main focus of many healthcare organizations, to create innovative approaches to old ways of doing things.
There has been an exponential increase in our online and digital lives that makes things happen very quickly, and this trend will continue. People are relying on technology to control and monitor their health, and have been doing so ever since the pandemic started.
It can be confirmed that this period of time has begun to shape up to be especially innovative, therefore, there are several key trends, which are going to drive this process in healthcare, with the aim to deal with patient demand.
This analysis of healthcare trends in 2021 is based on the HIMSS Annual European Digital Health Survey for 2021, where more than 400 Health Care Professionals participated to focus on current priorities, challenges and trends, for the digital health industry in Europe1, according to the Accenture Digital Health Technology Vision 2020 report2 and Forbes Top 10 Healthcare Industry predictions for 20213.
The foundations for digital health were largely in place across Europe with a clear focus on Telemedicine and services to enable remote working for clinicians. However, there were also significant interoperability gaps in many countries, which need to be addressed in a very short time. Telemedicine is a solution now aligned with this pandemic, which has accelerated its use in both public and private healthcare systems.
Gaps mentioned are an important point to take into consideration, while making health data exchange more secure and healthcare systems more efficient.
Accordingly, API should be assured when connecting EHR (electronic health records) or EMR (electronic medical records) systems and devices. This will be fundamental from a security point of view.
Telemedicine is here to stay, and patients are looking for healthcare companies that offer a full combination of in-person and virtual care with an increase of efficiency and time-saving.
This is a resiliency process for healthcare professionals and technical infrastructures that will need to be widely improved to better define workflows and improve the basic interoperability to exchange information with health authorities, which is one of the main goals for Spain, based on HIMSS’s survey (73%).
BIG DATA AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
The exponential growth of digitalization in healthcare has raised the challenge to deal with actionable big data, ensuring the security and privacy required3.
Boosting data management will raise the creation of patterns, trends and predictability models to improve treatments, health management by well-educated patients and healthcare professionals who can create a shift toward value-based and outcome-driven delivery systems3. Additionally, it’ll reduce costs for the healthcare system.
Despite gaps identified in data management and system interoperability1, the aim of working on actionable big data will lead to a more personalized and more effective prescribing of medicine by healthcare providers, encouraging collaboration between more stakeholders, which has been sped up thanks to the pandemic.
It is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and wearables that have a key role in improving the management and collection of health data.
Thanks to the pandemic, there has been a huge increase of digitalization, therefore, an increase of healthcare data in order to monitor infection rates and prevent the spread of infection. That means that machine learning algorithms will become more informed to bring up better applicable outcomes with the aim to improve healthcare results for a given patient.
Improving the machine learning algorithm will allow the further development of medical chatbots that could be used as first screening assistance to patients3.
The pandemic has empowered the more widespread usage of wearables that goes beyond the pure fitness tracking purpose.
The usage of those wearables for healthcare purposes allows for improved prevention, supports patients on making better decisions and the follow up of clinicians3.
As Oleksii Tsymbal (CIO MobiDev) highlighted, “various devices and mobile apps have come to play a critical role in tracking and preventing chronic illness for many patients and their doctors. By combining IoT development with telemedicine and telehealth technologies a new Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) has emerged.”
Patient adoption will be critical to accelerate the digitalization of the healthcare system where the technology is a means, not an end in itself.
DATA PRIVACY AND BLOCKCHAIN
Blockchain applications in the healthcare industry will be a clear trend to handle concerns related to data privacy. This technology will allow transaction healthcare records between stakeholders, organizations and devices improving data security.
Spreading the usage of blockchain technology in healthcare will improve1:
- Security of data
- Accessibility (IoMT)
- Enrollment in wide spectrum of clinical studies
Ultimately, this would comply with HIPAA and GDPR regulations, which are major priorities, and have a key role in the digital strategy at the European level and, particularly, in Spain (98%)1.
2020 has been personally and professionally a very challenging year globally, particularly in areas such as healthcare, where the digitalization process has been reshaped and rebound, in order to deal with the “new normal” era.
Based on the HISSM Annual European Digital Survey, there’ll be clear priorities to handle, regarding:
- IT security and data privacy
- Telemedicine and remote work
- Healthcare information exchange with health authorities
- Findings and costs
- IT security
- Employee’s skills
Taking into account the Accenture Digital Health Technology Vision survey, 85% of health executives acknowledge that technology has become fundamental for healthcare, which implies a big focus on Telemedicine, AI and Big Data management. Because 70% of patients are concerned about data privacy and online tracking, Blockchain technology is becoming a key trend to be considered2.
Leaders in healthcare should be following the trends mentioned and keep empowering consumers through a personalized experience.