IT usually has a goal of improving the way that a company is able to do their business by using technology to make operations more efficient, secure, and innovative. This objective doesn’t necessarily change when it comes to healthcare, but it comes alongside the top priority: patient care. Because efficiency, security, and innovation all have the potential to improve patient care, IT has and will continue to, transform healthcare.
In almost any industry, even the most tech-savvy ones, there is always a question of whether a new piece of technology is helpful or simply new. When the stakes are profit and efficiency, they are already high, but in healthcare, an individual’s well-being makes them even higher. Every new innovation isn’t necessarily worth its disruption, which is why we tend to see healthcare slow to adopt new technology and can sometimes lag behind other industries.
That being said, IT is transforming healthcare and with it, transforming patient care. With an emphasis on putting individuals at the centre of their own care, technology like telehealth, AI, IoT wearables, and big data have been worth that disruption and are already seeing incredible results. Healthcare institutions prepared to adopt these technologies will be able to offer their patients higher levels of care and will see much higher levels of satisfaction.
Overcoming Geographic Borders with Telehealth
Soon-to-be-gone are the days of someone not receiving the care they need because they live in an area without access to a large hospital. Telemedicine, or telehealth, enables patients to receive remote assessments via mobile phones, cutting down on wait times and providing an initial form of triage. For those living in remote areas of the world, seeing a doctor may require a long journey, while the phone sitting in their pocket could tell them whether that journey is necessary and maybe even provide treatment recommendations.
This is a perfect example of IT using existing technology to make simple, and yet monumental, changes to healthcare. Even those living in remote areas will likely already have access to a mobile phone, but suddenly, they can receive much better care. Because of that long journey, patients are unlikely to see a doctor when a condition is beginning, so being able to receive that assessment is a major step in preventing unnecessary escalations.
In a city or town with reasonably easy access to care, telehealth can still be used to cut healthcare costs. Patients are able to describe their concerns to a healthcare professional and receive an assessment without needing to step foot into a hospital or doctor’s office. Care becomes more efficient and patients are able to receive much quicker service; keeping these patients out of hospitals lowers wait times for when in-person care is needed.
AI Data Insight Helping Diagnoses
AI is the engine that makes tech like telehealth run like a well-tuned sports car. Access to a specialist via phone can have a huge impact, but combine that with access to infinite information collected and analyzed by AI makes it truly industry-transforming. With AI, physicians will be able to use unlimited data to inform each diagnosis and will be significantly cutting down on their blind spots. It’s as if every doctor will have access to each other’s experiences in order to diagnosis patients through patterns of symptoms and any other puzzle piece, like lifestyle or environment, giving clues to the bigger picture of a patient’s health.
We don’t see a day where doctors will become redundant, but as with most uses for AI, we do see healthcare providers benefitting from the possibilities that come from AI. For example, surgical robots are already in use and able to perform parts of surgery we never thought possible, but there may come a time where AI runs that machine as well, giving these surgical robots access to ever-expanding knowledge bases to inform surgical decisions in real-time.
The healthcare industry is always looking for ways to improve patients’ overall quality of life and wearables connected to the IoT is likely where we will be seeing the most initial success. Simple things like a cardio patient tracking exercise through their FitBit to more sophisticated devices to monitor vitals will enable both the patient and their physician to get a bigger picture of their overall health. This becomes especially important for preventative medicine and is another way that patients can play an active role in their health.
Due Diligence Before Moving Forward
Even as you’re reading through the ways that IT is transforming healthcare, we’d be surprised if you weren’t asking yourself about data security and wondering whether these new innovations can really provide privacy and protect personal data. IT security is definitely a barrier for healthcare providers adopting this technology, but just as AI can find patterns in order to help make a diagnosis, it can also sniff out security breaches and protect data. Because IT security is a major challenge in healthcare, it is given its due weight when new products are being developed and rolled out. In fact, a lot of this new technology has made existing systems even more secure. Organizations certainly need to do their due diligence before adopting any new technology, however, and should be enlisting the help of digital transformation specialists before taking any steps in this direction so that when they do, they can be confident that they are the right ones.