By Wladimir Hinz, RIC Centre Tech Blogger.
Healthcare can easily be considered as one of the most complex activities to adapt to new disruptive technologies.
There have been transcending developments in key areas like diagnostics, drug development and the way treatment is delivered. The change is particularly tangible in recent years, as patients spend progressively less time in healthcare facilities. These technological improvements have also made the healthcare experience more personal, expanding the horizon and the reach of long term patient care. IT systems are naturally following this trend – and by the way, a great moment to pursue a Healthcare IT role.
But Healthcare doesn’t adapt to new technologies rapidly, it’s a long process and it’s usually not a smooth one. Sure, there’s the training and the overall adaptation of new infrastructure that is generally required when a new process, database or application is installed. But also, Healthcare IT systems have to fulfil certain other aspects which require a considerable amount of time and resources.
Policy compliance is certainly required as well as having the necessary funds. What can be rather frustrating is inciting the senior teams to adapt to these systems. The issue can be reduced to the need of evidence that the systems can deliver what they promise. Innovation might be hindered by this, given that even in the most persuasive pitches – that make clinical, technological and economical sense – often fail to be adopted.
The complexity of all the related processes has proven to be reason enough to not undergo changes that could, if something doesn’t turn out right, affect reputations and/or security measures (i.e. patient records and other confidential information).
Lately, however, both medical professional and IT system providers have been in need of making transitions and improvements more quickly to respond to the rising demand for these services by the public. A public who is very comfortable with this technology and has a clear idea of how things can be improved.
The trend, as hinted above, is to move healthcare from on-site service to a more interactive and personal spectrum, where patients can connect with healthcare professionals through mobile networks that thrive on the deep analysis of patient data.
But the question still remains, taking into account all associated risks, should there be any changes? It’s tough to answer.
The birth of Tele-Health
As technology is made more consumable, the contact between specialists and patients is being enhanced to make patients more engaged and informed about their treatment, which could potentially turn the process into a highly supervised self-care. Healthcare professionals could continuously monitor their patients without having them hospitalized.
The potential to save on resources is surely tempting enough. But again, the same questions start to arise; there are aspects of this that are just too sensitive to try-out. The balance of risk promptly shifts to more secure standards.
The Slow Rise of Progress
As it appeared on Fortune, electronic records provide a quick taste of how fast the healthcare community adapts to new digital tools. From 2008 to 2013, the amount of office physicians that adopted e-records grew from 38% to 78%. While this seems fairly fast at first, keep in mind that e-records have existed for more than 30 years.
The good news is that almost everyone is investing in Healthcare, and it’s proven to be a very strong sector. Even though, R&D in the first stages is mostly being initiated now by startups, with big companies fishing for potential great ideas, the incentive of a buy-out is perfectly reasonable at the moment. Especially in the IT sector.
Harnessing the Power of Healthcare
In the end, what matters most are patients. Technology will make healthcare more efficient, less costly and give rise to healthier people. Since the problem is the speed of adaptation, what we need is a Moore’s Law for Medicine.
This quote from Daniel Garrett, Health IT Practice Leader, PwC US, portrays the full idea: “Digitally-enabled care is no longer nice-to-have, it’s fundamental for delivering high quality care […] Just as the banking and retail sectors today use data and technology to improve efficiency, raise quality, and expand services, healthcare must either do the same or lose patients to their competitors who do so.”
IT systems are just a part of all that technology that the Healthcare sector needs to implement to keep up with the needs of its patients.