If you’re into healthcare business, you probably know that keeping up with digital transformation in healthcare can feel overwhelming. Deciding which emerging technologies are worth investing in and getting your team on board with change is often the hardest part.
Well, adapting to the digital era requires a shift towards a flexible and risk-taking mindset. This clearly means letting go of out-dated business processes, and trusting an assumption that disruption will eventually yield big results. Before diving deeper into this topic, let’s have a quick recap.
Digital transformation in healthcare is the positive impact of technology in healthcare. Telemedicine, artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled medical devices, and blockchain electronic health records are just a few concrete examples of the transformations digitalization has brought forth in the healthcare sector, which are completely reshaping how we interact with health professionals, how our data is shared among providers, and how decisions are made about our treatment plans and health outcomes.
Innovation is the key and backbone here, with the main goal of streamlining the work of the physicians, optimizing systems, improving patient outcomes, reducing human error, and lowering costs through web and mobile experiences that were previously unimaginable.
Unfortunately, however, the healthcare industry today is lagging behind when it comes to implementing digital marketing strategies. In fact, a survey by Adobe in 2018 revealed that only 7% of healthcare and pharmaceutical companies had gone digital till then, compared to a minimum of 15% in other industries.
The U.S. healthcare market, howsoever, is enormous- with the national health expenditures projected to reach $5.7 trillion by the end of 2026. While there’s still quite some time for you to get well-versed in digital technology, and using it to bring in more business, but in order to transform your standard practice into a thriving, digital-based one in 2021-22, you first need an informative yet concise picture of the modern healthcare landscape across the borders.
Thanks to technology, patients get better (and quicker) treatment with virtual reality tools, wearable medical devices, telehealth, and the transitioning of 4G to 5G mobile technology. Doctors, on the other hand, can streamline their workflows using artificial intelligence-powered systems.
Let’s have a closer look at the state of digital transformation in the healthcare industry till date:
When you think of ‘on-demand,’ you think of consumers who want things at their own convenience, on their own time, and wherever they happen to be. The healthcare industry is entering the era of digital innovation, as patients seek on-demand healthcare because of their busy schedules. Mobile-friendliness is especially important when considering online content marketing.
People have simply become far more mobile over this decade. Mobility must be prioritized largely, as recent statistics show that 52% of all web browsing in the world occurs on mobile devices, as of 2018. One of the topmost rules of online marketing is that you must identify where your targeted consumers gather and reach them on those platforms, i.e. their handsets. That’s not surprising, given that 77 percent of U.S. residents own a smartphone. On top of that, the number of mobile phone users in the world has passed the 5 billion mark during the financial year 2019-20, (according to the survey done by Adobe in 2018).
According to DMN3, consumers are going online more and more, to obtain information on the following medical grounds:
But, on-demand healthcare is also driven by the growth of the ‘gig’ economy, in which freelance professionals in various industries hire themselves out per job or ‘gig,’ instead of tethering themselves to one company.
Companies such as Nomad Health- an online marketplace that links doctors directly with medical facilities for short-term work- are making it easier for physicians to provide on-demand healthcare to clients under specific circumstances that match their talents, expertise, and schedule. In other words, doctors themselves become on-demand healthcare providers to better meet the changing or evolving needs of their patients, which accounts to another benefit of digital transformation in the healthcare industry.
Big Data aggregates information about a business through platforms such as social media, e-commerce, online transactions, and financial transactions, and identifies patterns and trends for future use.
For the healthcare industry, such Big Data can provide several important benefits, including:
With these benefits in mind, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies should invest in organizing their data. This further requires an investment in analytics experts, who can crunch the data to not only identify areas of weakness but to also help companies better understand their market. Now, for example, even if you’re in the pharmaceutical industry, you probably understand that marketing dynamics are constantly evolving. In fact, drug manufacturers believe that the biggest advantage of Big Data is how it helps them understand the market precisely. And with that understanding, they can then determine product iteration and product budgets, based on existing and future demand.
With a better grasp of the market, your healthcare marketing and sales teams will have an easier time identifying your ideal consumer. And a big part of that is creating a customer persona, which compiles demographic information on what your prospects want and need, and the platforms where you can reach out to them.
Up until 10 years ago, telling people you could reduce their pain with a device similar to a video game would have garnered a lot of blank stares. In 2021, however, Virtual Reality (VR) is the remarkable feature of digital transformation in healthcare. Its spectrum of applications is profoundly changing the way patients are being treated in healthcare units or at homes today.
Take pain management for instance. Up until recently, doctors were handing out opioid prescriptions like candy. Be it migraines, post-operative pain, or whatever form of pain you might be suffering from, OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet are easily and affordably available for purchase in pharmaceuticals. What next? The country is currently facing the worst ever drug crisis in American history, representing an economic burden of over $78.5 billion a year, according to a 2018 study by Amazon’s Alexa in Healthcare.
Yet, millions of people are still struggling with chronic pain. According to the CDC, 50 million of U.S. adults had chronic pain in 2016. For them, of course, VR is a safer, more efficient alternative to drugs and regular clinical visits. VR technology is being used not only to treat pain, but everything from anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder, and not to forget- the stroke.
And that’s just a fraction of VR’s proven capabilities in the healthcare industry. Other uses include, but are not limited to, doctors and residents using virtual reality simulations to hone their skills or to plan complicated surgeries. VR headsets could also motivate wearers to exercise and help children with autism learn how to navigate the world!
From start-ups to pharma giants, everyone is betting on VR, and there are numbers to back them up. The global virtual and augmented reality in the healthcare market is expected to reach $5.1 billion by 2025.
VR is the powerful communication channel that allows you, among other things, to get a better sense of your customers’ needs, and even virtually engage them with your products or services.
Another trend of the digital transformation in healthcare is companies collecting their own health data from medical devices, including wearable technology.
In the past, most patients were satisfied with undergoing a physical check-up once a year and only checking in with their doctors when something felt wrong. But in the digital age, patients are focusing on prevention and maintenance and demanding information about their health more frequently. Thus, healthcare companies are now being proactive by investing in wearable technology devices that can provide up-to-date monitoring of high-risk patients to determine the likelihood of a major health event. According to Amazon’s report, the wearable medical device market is expected to reach more than $27 million by 2023, a spectacular jump from almost $8 million in 2017. Some of the most common of these devices include:
Other benefits for healthcare companies who invest in these products are:
By now, we know how Big Data can provide healthcare companies with predictive analysis about admission rates, and help them properly staff their facilities. But another factor supporting the digital transformation in healthcare is predicting what illnesses and diseases will become major problems in the near future.
Information aggregated through Big Data and other marketing sources can help healthcare companies develop healthy lifestyle recommendations for their patients. For example, you could hire an analyst to analyse keyword activity across social media channels, and on major search engines to determine the most common searches for medical conditions, illnesses, and general health. A predictive model can then be developed to anticipate the “next big health scare”, and how your company can be prepared for it.
On a smaller scale, again, predictive analysis can help companies and businesses of all sizes to determine when to hire temporary staff due to impending outbreaks of colds and flus that might result in a worker shortage any time without notice.
Artificial Intelligence is more than just a digital transformation trend in healthcare. It represents the epitome of medical innovation, and industry players are willing to invest millions in it. The study by Adobe also predicts that the AI-powered tools in healthcare market is expected to exceed $34 billion by 2025, which means this technology will shape almost all facets of the industry.
For most patients, especially the elderly, AI in medicine brings to mind those Japanese nurse robots. But now, there are plenty of American versions too, like the Moxy, a friendly hospital droid designed to assist human nurses with routine tasks such as fetching and restocking supplies.
Chatbots and virtual health assistants are another aspect of AI-based technology that patients are becoming more familiar with by the days. Chatbots can fill a multitude of roles- from customer service representatives to diagnostic tools, and even therapists. Their versatility is being translated in heavy investments. Adobe further predicts the global healthcare chatbots market to reach $314.3 million by 2023 from $122 million in 2018.
But the real power of AI can be best observed in areas like precision medicine, medical imaging, drug discovery, and genomics. For instance, cancer patients used to receive cookie-cutter treatments with high failure rates. Now, thanks to AI’s sophisticated pattern recognition, these patients have access to personalized therapies tailored to their genetic makeup and lifestyle.
What AI-powered computer programs do for oncology, in a nutshell, is analyze thousands of pathology images of various cancers to provide highly accurate diagnoses, and even predict the best possible anti-cancer drug combinations. And, in medical imaging diagnostics, this technology helps radiologists spot details that escape the human eye as well!
What’s more, top pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are using machine learning algorithms to shorten the drug development cycle. In fact, recent findings show that AI can slash early drug discovery timelines by four years against the industry average, and generate cost savings of 60 percent.
Overall, AI is predicted to bring $150 billion dollars in annual savings for the US healthcare economy by 2026, predicts Adobe. Start-ups are already jumping on this opportunity; the number of active AI start-ups has increased 14-fold since 2000.
These numbers alone should be enough to convince any CEO looking to usher their health organization into reaching digital maturity that AI is definitely worth the investment.
Blockchain has recently developed a bad reputation due to the burst of the cryptocurrency bubble. Now, the average person thinks of blockchain as of this vague, puzzling concept that doesn't have much of an impact on their life. In reality, this technology will soon play an instrumental role in keeping their electronic health records accurate and safe.
Blockchain is a digital ledger or a computerized database of transactions. Shared across a network of computers, it allows customers to safely exchange financial information with suppliers, without the need of a third party such as a bank.
The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are already vouching for its efficiency by investing millions in this market. According to the recent Amazon report, blockchain in the healthcare market is expected to reach $890.5 million by 2023. In healthcare, blockchain is proven to be an effective tool in preventing data breaches, improving the accuracy of medical records, and cutting costs.
Since years, health officials and experts have been trying to come up with doable solutions to the problem of fragmented medical records.
An electronic health record (EHR) is basically the digital version of a medical chart and includes everything from a patient’s medical history and diagnoses, to treatment plans, immunization dates, and test results. It also contains their home address, previous workplaces, as well as financial information like credit card numbers. This is what makes EHRs such an appealing target for hackers, who are selling them for up to $1,000 on the black market.
Yet, for as valuable as they are, hospitals and health centers are falling short in managing their EHRs.
Medical data is currently being recorded in unstructured formats and stretched across multiple EHR systems. Already short-staffed doctors and nurses struggle to manually log in every piece of information. This leads to huge errors such as duplicate medical records, misdiagnoses, delayed treatments, and even deaths.
Some countries like Australia and UK have started to experiment with blockchain technology to manage medical records and transactions among patients, healthcare providers, and insurance companies. Thanks to a decentralized network of computers that handle the blockchain and simultaneously register every transaction, conflicting information is automatically detected. Records are not only completely accurate but also harder to hack.
In the U.S., regulations make it harder for companies to create blockchain-based EHRs. Some start-ups like Medicalchain, however, are making big strides towards a future where patients will control their EHRs from an app, wherein doctors, pharmacists, or health insurers will be requesting permission to access their data and where all transactions will be recorded on the distributed ledger.
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The healthcare system is undergoing a seismic shift in how information is obtained and disseminated. Gone are the days when all medical information was under the lock and key of doctors and surgeons, and patients had to sign away their lives to access their own health information. Consumers want to be able to access all aspects of their own health record and do so from the palm of their hand.
Through tools such as online patient portals that provide medical test results, diagnoses, and explanations of illnesses, patients are now becoming participants in their well-being. And that allows doctors to analyze patients in real-time.
What does it really mean when your Fitbit says you’ve completed 14,000 steps in a day? By itself, that is just information. It becomes valuable when doctors and medical analysts transform this data into actionable knowledge about how those steps helped you burn a specific number of calories, and whether increasing those steps will help you maintain your ideal weight. While digital technology is a valuable tool in healthcare, it’s important to remember that it is still just a tool that you can add to your repertoire.
Speaking of health in the palm of your hand, or health in your pocket…As wireless technology gets more sophisticated, so does the delivery of medicine.
Introduced by Qualcomm, the world's largest mobile chipset supplier, 5G enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) is considered to be the driver of the new mobile industry revolution today.
The technology can run up to 100 times faster than the current cellular connection, which made industry experts confident that it will completely change the healthcare landscape and lead to savings of up to $650 billion by 2025. Here’s how:
First, Qualcomm says 5G will make “buffering” a thing of the past, allowing for instantaneous streaming, downloading, and uploading. For telemedicine, this means patients will experience better video conference quality, regardless of their location. More importantly, doctors will have access to accurate, real-time imaging of organs, soft tissue, and bones, which in turn will greatly decrease the risk of misdiagnosis.
With the current network bandwidth, it takes hours for doctors to send large imaging files to a specialist. Once health facilities switch to 5G networks, the transmission process will take just a couple of minutes. And that’s not even a fraction of how 5G could transform healthcare.
“5G is designed to pair with technologies like artificial intelligence and XR to enhance current services and applications, offering a different level of user experiences,” says Qualcomm.
Let’s take a look at some practical examples:
But it is in the wearable medical device market where 5G will cause the greatest disruption. Remote monitoring technology has yet to reach its full potential due to slow network speeds and unreliable connections. With 5G, clinicians will be able to instantaneously collect medical data such as vitals or physical activity levels from disparate sources and large groups of patients and make fast, reliable diagnoses.
This is preventative care at its best: fewer people developing chronic conditions, and lesser money spent caring for patients in hospitals or in the emergency wards. All in all, 5G is guaranteed to play a major role in healthcare this year and patients will be the first ones to feel the positive changes. The first 5G data cards were launched in 2019 along with 5G smartphones.
As with any business, the goal is to create products and/or services that improve lives or fulfill a desire or requirement. Technology can help you realize this goal. Utilize this guide as a compass to navigate your way through the digital agency in the healthcare space, and build transformative experiences with your consumer at the center of everything you do.
Digital Piloto, September 2, 2021
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