It may sound counterintuitive but one of the major challenges governments across the globe faced at the height of the coronavirus pandemic was actually keeping people away from hospitals. In part, because of an inability to scale up human labour and resources fast enough to meet increased demand and also because of a need to minimise the number of people gathering at any specific place.
By Nick Durrant, CEO of Bluegrass Digital
But what did this mean for patients who needed to visit a hospital for something other than Covid? Well, they had to find alternative ways to secure treatment without visiting a medical professional in-person.
This need to access decentralised care has accelerated the use of emerging tech and digital solutions to enable remote care and improve healthcare outcomes in regions where access was previously unavailable. Sure, many of these solutions and platforms existed pre-COVID, but their use drastically accelerated due to the pandemic.
Digital healthcare in action
In 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) grouped different digital healthcare technologies based on their primary target user-groups; these being client-oriented technologies, provider-oriented technologies, management-oriented technologies and data- oriented technologies. Today, these groupings provide a nice guideline to explore exactly how digital technologies have strengthened global health systems for different stakeholders.
From a client/patient perspective, many of the barriers to adoption of virtual consultations were lowered due to the pandemic, according to research from UK consulting firm, STL Partners. These virtual consultations offer patients and doctors more flexibility by giving them the choice to interact when and how they wish.
Taking this a step further, portable examination kits – like the TytoHome mobile medical device, which was made available in South Africa by Discovery Health – can be used to allow patients to attend remotely-guided consultations with a doctor.
Fitted with a camera, thermometer, otoscope and stethoscope, the TytoHome device captures clinical standard images of the ear, throat and skin, for example, and then shares these images with a healthcare provider who can offer a diagnosis, treatment plan and provide a prescription, if needed, remotely.
For healthcare providers, digital transformation means that the days of physical paper charts are over. When sharing information about patients between different departments or practices, cloud technologies provide a single access point so multiple doctors can view lab results and consult notes on a specific patient.
Signapps, a mobile-first communication and collaboration platform born in Cape Town, offers just that. The platform, which recently secured a multi-million rand contract with Britain’s National Health Services (NHS), enables multi-disciplinary teams of healthcare professionals to seamlessly work together to better care for their patients.
From a management perspective, digital strategies can be implemented to enhance operational efficiencies and reduce costs, while still providing a superior customer experience. Integrated digital technology ecosystems streamline administration processes, which increases overall efficiency and decreases patient waiting times.
Looking behind the scenes, a brand like Veeva Systems, for example, provides cloud marketing solutions for the healthcare sector. Working with biotech and pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Merck, Veeva’s cloud-based platform helps healthcare brands improve customer relationships, store and analyse data and keep track of industry regulations and clinical trials.
When looking at data-oriented technologies, electronic health records turn medical data into medical insights. Using cloud, medical researchers can mine the data to spot trends and even potentially avoid public health crises in the future. These insights also reveal how to streamline operations, improve patient experience and cut unnecessary costs.