If we look at history, we see just how important technological innovations in healthcare are for humanity. They save lives and help us adapt to the ever-changing environment.
Advancements in modern software technologies are transforming entire organisational processes within the healthcare sector. Some prominent examples are AI, IoT, blockchain, smart sensors, cutting-edge software solutions and cognitive computing. They fulfilled the global demand for standardised and easily manageable electronic health records (EHRs) and advanced data analytics, too.
The benefits are countless. So let’s take a detailed look at the way innovations are revolutionizing the healthcare sector and how companies can take advantage of that.
Innovations in healthcare boost efficiency
Implementing innovative ideas in healthcare is boosting efficiency in patient care, communication and data consistency. Below are just a few examples of how innovation drives efficiency in the industry:
Fast-tracked access to medical information. The pandemic accelerated the speed of peer reviews and research publishing. Thanks to so-called “fast-track systems”, web platforms, data sharing, clinical trials, and medical statistics are now happening faster, and thus increasing public knowledge.
Improved patient care. Inconsistent health test results may slow down the delivery of life-saving information, causing individuals with serious or chronic diseases to suffer from treatment delays. This is just one of the many cases where clinics and hospitals turn to tech innovations to improve cluttered processes and, eventually, save lives. SMAC technologies (social/ mobile/ analytics/ cloud) help companies in healthcare to streamline business processes, lower costs, speed up care coordination, boost research and development, and improve the overall quality of patient care.
Enhanced data consistency. Healthcare companies handle massive amounts of data on a daily basis. In fact, the global data storage market for healthcare alone is expected to reach $9,23 billion. As in any other data-saturated field, healthcare needs data consistency to handle medical information and patients’ EHRs more efficiently. Custom software solutions are particularly useful when it comes to unifying data types, distribution, and in-depth analytics.
Innovations in healthcare support disease management
Six out of 10 people live with some kind of chronic disease (lasting three or more months). More than one in three people above 16 years of age live with a long-term condition. Chronic illnesses represent 86% of all deaths and take up a serious portion of national healthcare budgets. This is why practitioners are widely relying on the latest technological advancements. Things like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Deep Learning and Machine Learning (ML) can improve treatment and management of chronic diseases. Here’s how:
Easier health data interpretation. Systems for managing chronic diseases (CDMS) can automatically retrieve data from patients’ EHRs and display it on their mobile devices. If designed to be user-friendly, such CDMS systems enable a highly personalised healthcare journey for patients. They also offer a more comprehensive health data interpretation. AI and ML also allow structuring a summary of current health status and personalised recommendations, e.g. lifestyle adjustments or supplements intake.
Increased patient engagement. “BMC”’s evidence-based research reports that patient and family engagement (PFE) strategies contribute to more positive treatment outcomes. PFE strategies often include educating patients about their chronic illnesses (e.g. diabetes, autoimmune illness, cardiovascular diseases etc.). They also provide steps one must take to successfully control their condition. Additionally, some initiatives suggest giving patients access to their personal EHRs through patient-centric web platforms as a way to support shared decision-making.
Seamless hospitals workflow. Hospitals, clinics, and private healthcare practices can successfully use disease management software to promote patient involvement. Whether it be for chronic disorders or other diseases, the software gives people individualised, relevant medical information based on their health state. Plus, healthcare practitioners can effectively use technology thanks to the crucial monitoring tools provided by contemporary telemedicine and eHealth systems.
Innovations in healthcare improve doctor-patient relationships
In 2019, “Medical Economics” theorized that technology might stand in the way of doctor-patient relationships because of more screen time and less eye contact.
As it turns out, that’s not the case.
Remote appointments as the new norm. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it was technology that made patient-provider connections possible. During the last two years, remote patient appointments, team collaboration and remote patient monitoring were cornerstone services to stop the spread of the disease. In addition to being an effective way of prevention, telemedicine comes with other benefits such as more accessible care, comfort and reduced travel expenses.
Targeting physician’s burnout. Digital healthcare services give medical professionals more flexibility, improving their work-life balance and reducing the common physician burnout caused by EHRs. A scoping review on the subject discusses how EHR can cause doctor’s burnout because of complex documentation processes, poor technical design or alert fatigue.
It turns out that tech innovations are a double-edged sword, also capable of causing harm. But if designed well, tech solutions have the potential to help doctors avoid wasting time on laborious administrative tasks by automating most documentation. As a result, doctors will have increased satisfaction and will thus pay closer attention to their patients when they have remote appointments. In fact, “WebMD” cites a survey confirming that 63% of patients and nearly 60% of doctors consider online appointments to be of the same high quality as in-person visits.
User accessibility in mind. Although telemedicine and eHealth technologies carry a great deal of potential, they also pose certain risks with security or user accessibility. In case technology gets too complicated to understand by the end-users, it could cause more harm than good. For instance, when companies invest in healthcare software development for patients, they need to develop solutions all age groups can use. However, the good news is that when utilised properly, technology may meaningfully connect doctors and patients, enhancing their connection and empowering people to take charge of their own health.
AI-powered innovations personalise healthcare
Artificial intelligence will inevitably change the way we look at individual health and the way telemedicine and eHealth systems are developed by introducing highly personalised products. With every new software release, AI’s capabilities increase, and it is reasonable to assume that the best is yet to come.
Higher personalisation through AI. According to the “Next in Personalization 2021” report by McKinsey, businesses that invest in innovations delivering more customer intimacy can grow way faster than their competitors. By all means, today’s AI algorithms are mature enough to perform complex tasks such as data mining in EHRs and aid in developing in-demand individualised healthcare services like wearables and mobile applications.
AI as a diagnostic tool. Currently, health and tech experts explore AI’s potential in diagnostic procedures and as a co-creator of treatment regimens. AI has the ability to revolutionise the medical industry as we know it, deliver more personalised care plans and improve decision-making processes. The online magazine “Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence” published a paper in 2021 saying that AI can significantly contribute to medical development in low and middle-income countries. On focus are areas such as personalised diagnostics, clinical decision-making and direct patient support.
Blockchain-based EHRs. In April 2022, “Scientific American” published an article on revolutionary use of blockchain technology and NFTs (nonfungible tokes) in healthcare. The idea is to convert EHRs into NFT asset that proves ownership and is always updated with the latest health-related patient data. Thanks to the nature of blockchain technology, NFTs are seen as a secure way to save information as the technology doesn’t allow modifications later on. Such up-to-date medical info can also be used for scientific research, clinical trials, IoT integrations and telemedicine services all based on blockchain tokens.
How can healthcare companies stay relevant?
To satisfy their rising tech needs and adapt quickly to Industry 4.0, healthcare companies usually rely on one or more of these options:
- in-house IT department
- vendor services from a software development company,
- off-the-shelf software solutions
All of them are feasible and aim to improve existing procedures and deliver sustainable healthcare services. But each one comes with specific pros and cons:
Hiring in-house IT experts
Big healthcare corporations have a lot of resources, so they can obviously afford to maintain an in-house IT department and develop their own software. In case of abundant financial resources, relying on an in-house IT team might be a good option as the employees are hired to fit the company culture and can go through internal company training to gain the necessary know-how.
However, maintaining a team of highly skilled software engineers when software development is a non-core task for your business is expensive and oftentimes, unnecessary. Here, you need to think about a hiring process, salaries, insurance, taxes, etc. The good rule of thumb by Peter Drucker goes on to say that companies should do what they do best and outsource the rest. Besides, it’s not always up to you. Sometimes there’s simply a lack of talent for in-demand technologies, or the talent available is overpriced. .
Which brings us to the next option.
Partnering with a software vendor
Developing your custom software solution is an affordable alternative to hiring in-house software engineers. The two methods share certain benefits. Working with an outsourced vendor means that, unless otherwise specified in the SLA, you’ll own the software and the right to change its future course of action. Besides, in 2022 most custom software companies follow Agile methodologies that highlight the importance of daily client interaction, so you’ll be frequently updated about the status of your healthcare software project.
Currently, some of the top outsourcing regions in the world are developing countries in Asia, Eastern Europe and South America. High-tech expertise combined with lower tax rates make those regions lucrative for Western corporations. However, due to the sector’s complexity, custom software developers need to provide proof of experience within the specific domain of healthcare such as previous projects on their portfolio and client testimonials. In fact, that’s one of the most important factors to look for when choosing a reliable healthcare IT partner in order to have a flawless development and end product.
Purchasing off-the-shelf software
Going for off-the-shelf solutions is usually the cheapest option. You either pay for a licence to use the software or purchase a subscription and your business gets a ready-to-use solution immediately. Plus, you’ll save valuable time and resources that would have been used in building a product from scratch.
The downside is that, typically, off-the-shelf software solutions only have limited use cases and functionalities that don’t fully cover your business needs. Besides, healthcare is a dynamic field. If your project ideas or tech requirements change, off-the-shelf software won’t be as flexible as developing your own custom software product.
In a nutshell
Without innovations in healthcare, sector advancement would have been considerably slower and far more uncertain. Covid-19 showed us that tech innovations in healthcare can significantly impact delivery in force majeure situations. By implementing advanced technologies such as AI and ML, healthcare companies can support medical staff during the diagnostic and therapeutic phases, improving patients’ chances of a full recovery.
In the future, the accessibility, increased data traceability, and consistency of EHRs are expected to help both healthcare businesses and patients. This is why personalisation, increased patient engagement, and easier data interpretation are essential trends powered by new technologies such as AI, ML and blockchain.
Last but not least, healthcare software development is a driving force behind long-lasting changes in the sector. Telemedicine and eHealth companies willing to adequately answer market demands should aim to create impactful solutions that contribute to sustainability, effortless scalability and patient-centricity.