Digital Solutions In Healthcare
Plug “digital healthcare solutions” into Google, and the results are clear: digital tools have taken the healthcare industry by storm. Innovators across the HealthTech spectrum are leveraging new tools and tech to create digital solutions and provide patients with virtual healthcare—right in their pockets, on their wrists, or in their hands.
Researchers are generally positive about these developments, with studies showing that digital platforms help patients with mental health diagnoses self-monitor and self-manage their symptoms or modernize pharmaceutical sciences. But one of the biggest benefits of these tools is the way they assist in automation, which has been shown to improve everything from patient care to business’s bottom lines.
Like Josh Gluck wrote in HealthTech magazine, systems like artificial intelligence (AI) don’t “always have to be about the attention-grabbing aspects of the technology.” Sure, AI can power neat tech like the cutting-edge robots used in robotics-assisted surgery, but it can also automate basic tasks like operations, administration, and clinical workflow. The cost savings coming from this automation can then be reinvested in other areas, including further investment in digital HealthTech solutions.
One of these solutions might be Ava, a wearable device developed by Ava Science Inc. and approved by the FDA to help women track their ovulation cycles, but that’s now being used to detect pre-symptomatic cases of COVID-19. Through a collaboration with researchers in Lichtenstein, a team of researchers and entrepreneurs found that their algorithm accurately detected 70% of COVID-19 infections seven days before becoming symptomatic.
And Ava’s researchers are looking beyond the end of the pandemic: the developers believe that using tools like Ava, physicians and other healthcare providers can access patients’ vital signs for previous weeks and months—painting a bigger, more comprehensive picture of a patient’s health.
AI powered by platforms like IBM’s Watson is also transforming how healthcare is reaching the public. In addition to powering platforms that seamlessly read imaging data, IBM tech—like Watson’s Imaging Patient Synopsis—integrates with electronic health records (EHRs) to read otherwise unstructured data and create a useful finding for providers and patients alike.
Nuance Communications—recently acquired by Microsoft in a deal valued at $19.7B—is pioneering another AI-powered solution, this one focused on cloud-based speech recognition. The company’s Nuance Medical Speech Recognition solutions capture the sounds of a physician-patient encounter and quickly and accurately transcribe those encounters into narrative feeds that integrate directly with major EHR platforms. We live in a world where patients regularly report frustration with constant clicking, typing, and computer use in the exam room. The solutions available from Nuance are poised to automate one of the most frustrating parts of the healthcare process for clinicians and reduce friction with patients who’d prefer their doctor stay focused on them.
Google Cloud is preparing itself to provide physicians with “faster, easier access” to patient information and insights with multiple new products in development. The company inked a 10-year deal with the Mayo Clinic to create an “AI Factory” and develop new AI-powered products that will improve patient outcomes and efficiency of care. As Google gears up to open its first Minnesota-based office in Rochester, the two organizations have jumped head-first into their first project: a tool that will draw contours around head and neck tumors. Planning radiation treatments takes hours, not minutes, and the tool will automate the image-reading process and improve clinical decision-making timelines.
The phenomenon of clinician burnout associated with relentless reliance on EHR systems is well documented, and Google Cloud aims to mitigate that burnout with its CareStudio™ platform. This physician-facing search tool helps clinicians organize and navigate patient EHRs. The goal is to utilize Google’s expertise in information organization and search to help healthcare providers find the information they need, when they need it.
Google Cloud’s Healthcare Interoperability Readiness Program is one patient side of the solution, helping patients access their healthcare data with ease. The launch follows guidance from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who recently rubber-stamped the Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule. This policy prioritizes patients by ensuring equitable access to personal health information. The rule, said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is focused on “driving interoperability and patient access…by liberating patient data.”
The Healthcare Interoperability Readiness Program encourages organizations like hospitals and payers to drop their current IT infrastructure and transition to the cloud. There, disparate data from siloed systems can be collected, managed by application programming interfaces (APIs), and accessed by patients when and where they need it. The program’s tech is designed to scale from the beginning of the interoperability journey and throughout the implementation process.
Google Cloud is also working on an AI-powered solution to improve telehealth service customer experiences. A 2020 Google/Amwell partnership—born from the boom in COVID-19-necessitated telehealth visits—intends to integrate both companies’ capabilities to safely, securely, and smartly deliver telehealth solutions on a global scale, just in time for the forecasted five-year compound annual growth of 38.2% through 2025.
Digital solutions have also developed in response to patient demand—for the tech-savvy younger generations, typical healthcare access methods just aren’t cutting it. In a survey of Gen Z, 23% shared that they were least satisfied with the transparency in their healthcare, while another 24% said they were frustrated with the lack of convenience in receiving treatment.
For these patients, mobile platforms might be the way to go. Organizations and institutions with the bandwidth to create their own mobile health app have a leg up on the competition—that is, other healthcare service providers—from clinics to hospitals to larger care groups. Remote patient monitoring systems powered by these kinds of apps have more than demonstrated their efficacy in reducing hospital readmissions, increasing clarity for patients, and potentially decreasing future in-person visits to healthcare providers.
By the end of 2019, the global healthcare radio-frequency identification (RIFD) market was estimated at upwards of $3.5B, with an anticipated compound annual growth rate of 22% between 2019 and 2030. The technology is regularly used to track patients via a wristband, track medication distribution, and keep an up-to-date inventory of lifesaving equipment. In an example not out of place in a network crime drama, the Pratt Regional Medical Center in Pratt, Kansas, uses RIFD to prevent newborns from being switched at birth or abducted.
RIFD is considered a generally “favorable asset” in healthcare organizations. In hospitals and labs, RIFD is used to track everything from patient blood samples to medication pallets. The data collected by passive and active RIFD tech can help organizations automate both supply chain management—including drug monitoring and quality control—and asset tracking.
Facing the Future
Like one Gizmodo article pointed out: “There’s a gap between ‘this thing could work’ to ‘this is how it will be used in real life.’” Some of these solutions are in their early stages; others are tested, tried, and true, and have proven their role in automating the processes that the healthcare industry runs on. These digital solutions are only a small sampling of the available and up-and-coming tech to help your organization grow.
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About the Author
Miguel Costa, President, leads TMG360 Media’s technology initiatives both for the company and its clientele. He supervises emerging technologies and assesses their application to a company’s business strategies and solutions.