The healthcare industry has traditionally been slow to adopt technological innovation, so much so that a ban had to be imposed on the use of fax machines in the UK’s NHS in 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has placed intense pressure on healthcare systems globally to pick up technological tools and face the future of digital healthcare – this is a primary reason why forward-looking healthcare organisations are embracing the possibilities created by remote healthcare, wearables and AI.
One of the biggest changes ushered in by the pandemic is the rise of telehealth, as appointments went online to ensure only the high-priority patients were entering hospitals. Despite its long-standing attachment to those archaic fax machines, the NHS rolled out Microsoft Teams to 1.2 million employees in just a matter of weeks, enabling them to communicate remotely with colleagues and patients.
This pattern was replicated all over the world. Data shows that in the US, 46 per cent of patients in 2020 accessed telehealth, compared to just 11 per cent in 2019. The 2021 Future Health Index found that 89 per cent and 83 per cent of healthcare leaders in the US and the Netherlands are investing in telehealth, respectively. The average was 64 per cent across the 14 countries surveyed.
Long-standing reluctance to disrupt the norms of patient care demonstrates that the healthcare industry has been slow to embrace the opportunities afforded by new digital tools. However, Covid-19 has proved what has long been suspected: that a large proportion of health visits can be successfully conducted remotely. Industry analyst IDC predicts that by 2023 nearly two-thirds of patients will have accessed healthcare digitally.
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Healthcare providers recognise that it’s time to propel healthcare into the next era; nearly two-thirds across 14 global markets are now investing heavily in digital health. An October 2020 survey of 500 healthcare executives by healthcare firm Optum found that 56 per cent say they are accelerating or expanding their artificial intelligence (AI) deployment timelines in response to the pandemic. From AI being used to improve diagnosis, to wearables and apps monitoring real-time health data, to virtual appointments with consultants, the shift to digital in healthcare is truly underway.
However, years of reluctance to innovate means that not all healthcare organisations are well-equipped for a technology-charged future. More healthcare organisations are recognising the role technology architecture will play in future success and expediting their cloud adoption strategies accordingly. Despite this, many organisations have not yet invested in the strong foundations necessary for a future-facing stack. Many are weighed down by outdated legacy systems that don’t interact well with other applications and keep operations slow and siloed.
Healthcare companies must invest in core, scalable and flexible technologies such as cloud and analytics to maintain competitiveness. A one-stop holistic automation solution such as Hexaware’s TensaiTM suite will be increasingly indispensable as the industry shifts to digital ways of working, while digital systems must be monitored and protected, routine manual tasks automated, and ever-multiplying data sources mapped and translated into insights. The need for robust, scalable and resilient digital healthcare infrastructure has never been greater.
Having worked with leading hospitals and healthcare providers, Hexaware believes that digital patient engagement can be the catalyst for accelerating digital transformation. This view is informed by experience: Hexaware’s previous projects include building a telehealth app for one of the top children’s hospitals in the US, helping reduce the time to get an appointment for diagnosis from five months to less than three hours. Other past projects include developing the world’s first US Food and Drug Administration-approved digital pill, supporting Covid-19 rescue studies for more than 400,000 patients, and redesigning the US Medicare user experience.
By harnessing the power of technology that includes cloud architecture, AI, automation, virtual agents and chatbots with strategic initiatives, Hexaware believes healthcare providers can revitalise their patient care delivery models.
Far from eroding standards in patient care, a digital-first approach that complements and enhances traditional care is predicted to boost patient experience in the coming years. The fusing of different systems and services will create more holistic and patient-centred care, and finely tuned systems informed by dynamic real-time data are set to revolutionise the healthcare of the future.