Managing the strain on healthcare through digitalisation

July 19, 2021
Managing the strain on healthcare through digitalisation

The healthcare systems in many Southeast Asian countries have been stretched to their limit with the COVID-19 pandemic: hospitals have to deal with an overwhelming shortage of medical resources which has driven up healthcare costs; medical frontliners meanwhile, are faced with the daunting tasks of saving lives and providing quality patient care on top of pressing administrative work(s).

According to telecommunications expert Dirk Dumortier, Head of Business Development Smart-City and Healthcare, Asia-Pacific, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE), the defining qualities of an ideal, futureproof healthcare system should be its ability to adapt and cater to its patients’ needs. It should offer adaptability and agility, allowing for healthcare providers to deliver quality care without disruptions.

In the face of trial, healthcare organisations must then “seek out enduring strategies that will grant them stamina” i.e. embracing and leveraging digitalisation in healthcare, so as to manage and prepare for any future crises. The digitalisation of healthcare will undoubtedly “transform outdated healthcare routines” using the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), to benefit both patients and healthcare workers (HCWs).

IoMT encompasses a large interconnected network of medical devices and their respective applications. This allows for real-time data and information transfer, such that artificial intelligence (AI), automation, telemedicine, data analytics, and mobility technology can be weaved into patient care delivery. The data collected can then be analysed to enhance/cater to unique patient care, and optimise services and solutions through a smart, self-sustaining hospital network.

Through a digitalised healthcare system practices such as remote patient monitoring can free up much-needed resources at healthcare facilities, enhancing operational efficiency. AI-enabled IoMT can ensure minimal medical errors or oversights and alleviate the pressure on caregivers.

[Caregiver satisfaction is unfortunately rarely prioritised despite the essential nature of their work, and it is critical that hospitals and healthcare organisations place importance on reducing pressure and burnout in these difficult times.]

It can additionally enable smarter communications among HCWs and healthcare communities, such as the one adopted by Kingsway Hospitals in India. A smart communications network can make it considerably easier for efficient coordination of resources across departments, clinics, and hospitals – with IoMT all these and more can be done without the increased commensurate cost to the healthcare system.

In introducing the technology however, healthcare organisations may worry about the cost of sustaining long-term investments such as IT support teams, maintenance, and upkeep – factors which may strain an already limited budget. Healthcare organisations may also worry that new technology adoption can weaken their cybersecurity defences. Network compromise for instance, can trigger delays and hinder medical professionals from administering patient care.

Digitalised healthcare is fortunately a feasible system to implement and maintain, even in developing or less well-to-do countries, if key emphasis is placed on the adaptability, interoperability, and simplicity of the technology. Digitalised healthcare can be incorporated seamlessly by tapping into the existing technology ecosystem in a country.

The Indian telemedicine market – based just on a stable internet connection for everyday devices such as mobile phones and computers, for example, saw exponential growth between March-May 2020 when at least 50 million people accessed healthcare services online; India’s major teleconsultation platforms also witnessed up to a five-fold increase in online consultations during this time. With an estimated 560 million internet users in the country, the Indian telemedicine market is well-positioned to expand – more so with the constant threat of disease.

Another example is ALE’s customers across Asia Pacific, who are leveraging IoMT and geolocation services to connect and monitor clinical assets — such as patient monitors or infusion pumps — and smart objects, thus enabling HCWs to keep track of essential equipment and quickly locate them, saving time while enhancing their work efficiency.

“Technological innovations can better equip HCWs and allow them to better collaborate and deliver a trailblazing, digitally-connected experience to patients, transforming outdated healthcare routines,” Dumortier concluded. “If we do not look for sustainable strategies to prepare our healthcare system for the next storm, history will only repeat itself. As we cannot predict in what way, shape or form the next crisis will take, the agility and flexibility that digitalisation brings will be of utmost importance.”

Category: Features, Top Story

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