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Delivering Digital

Healthcare is Increasingly a Data Business

Healthcare industry on verge of widespread digital transformation

While healthcare has always been an industry that could benefit from smart investments in technology, it’s also always tended to be a laggard when it comes to tech adoption. Many factors contribute to this slower pace of adoption, from front-line caregivers not wanting to break old habits to historically lower IT budgets compared to other industries.

Still, it’s an industry that is rife with innovation. Much of the healthcare innovation we’ve seen to date has cropped up around new medical devices and their connectivity, as well as improved diagnostics and improved pharmaceuticals. While it’s certain those types of efforts are going to continue, the focus of healthcare digital transformation is all about shifting entire businesses to become data-driven healthcare organizations. The collection, sharing, and machine-learning enhanced analysis of data are going to drive more efficient and effective care, increase disease prevention, and improve manageability across the industry.

There are a number of key technologies that healthcare organizations are using to transform the business by becoming data-driven to improve patient care and lower costs.

3D Printing

3D Printing is transforming medical devices and prosthetics. The ability to 3D print will not only lower prices, but 3D printed devices are also more easily customizable to each patient’s specific needs. According to Global Market Insights, the healthcare 3D printing market size is expected to reach $2.2 billion by 2024.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

AI/ML are widely expected to continue to enhance diagnostics, such as improving diagnostics from imaging techniques such as X-rays, MRI systems and CT scans, as well as helping pathologists to identify areas on images that clinicians will want to analyze before the clinician even looks at the information. However, AI can also help to automate documentation management and the handling of routine clinicians requests.

Virtual Reality

 VR will increasingly assist with medical training, such as providing more students the opportunity to watch surgeries and fine-tune surgical techniques under very realistic conditions before their training turns to the real thing. Pilots and soldiers train in simulations, and soon so will more medical students. While some question whether simulators are the ideal way for medical students to prepare, it’s just a matter of time before virtual training is widely accepted in the medical community.

The Quantified Self

Writer Gary Wolf is credited with coining the term quantified self in 2007, and it’s regarding the proactive collecting of personal data daily to improve life quality. Since wearable technologies such as Fitbit, Apple Watch and others came onto the scene more people than ever are tracking their steps, sleep, resting and exerted heartbeat, and more recently even their EKG.

It’s also becoming increasingly common for people to take home medical tests, such as measuring their blood glucose levels, as well as hormone and cholesterol levels. While I’m sure a new generation of hypochondriacs may be created, once individuals and healthcare providers learn how to manage novices measuring more data points about themselves, it will become increasingly possible to head off common health issues such as Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart irregularities.

Telehealth

The last two interactions I had with my doctor’s office were online. One was to describe symptoms and ask relevant questions, and the other was over questions regarding tests results. I don’t live thousands, hundreds, or even a dozen miles from my doctor’s office. No. I live one and a half miles from my primary doctor’s office. I’m not the only one taking advantage of telehealth, not out of necessity but pure convenience. Increasingly care providers are tracking patients remotely, with incoming data being overlooked by algorithms in case something requiring physician attention arises. This will not only benefit relatively fortunate people like me who find themselves looking for ways to save time but help those who are homebound and without easy access to transportation to their doctor’s office.

IT Transformation

For many years now, DevOps processes have been part of enterprise business-technology transformation efforts, a couple of years ago, research firm Forrester cited healthcare among the industry’s leading the charge toward enterprise DevOps. As healthcare organizations solidify these efforts, they will find the core or their IT more agile and more rapidly able to provide the infrastructure, services, and applications these organizations need to thrive.

When all of these trends are taken together, it becomes clear that delivering healthcare in the years ahead will be increasingly about data. The most efficient healthcare providers will be those that can swiftly and accurately collect, manage, analyze and effectively provide care based on the information it tells them.

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