There is no doubt that technologies impact nearly every aspect of modern life. Medicine isn’t an exception, as the last decades have become a breaking point that signified the robust shift towards technologies. While the popular term “digital transformation” more and more frequently appears in the news feed, it is not entirely clear what this phrase really means. Let’s take a look at the major components of this world-changing process together!
What Does Digital Transformation Mean in Healthcare?
Digital transformation means bringing digital elements to real life. Looking through the lens of the healthcare industry, this term may be described as the integration of digital technology into the healthcare system, fundamentally changing the way doctors operate and deliver care to patients. Both healthcare providers and patients should understand that keeping up with digital transformation may be overwhelming, especially during the global pandemic. With such a wide variety of possible options, choosing which technology is worth investing in may be truly challenging.
That is why we prepared a list of the most remarkable trends in digital transformation of medicine to help you avoid outdated healthcare processes. Read on, stay on trend, and implement viable healthcare tech solutions!
1. The Internet of Things (IoT): A New Era in Patient & Doctor Interactions
Growth of the IoT Healthcare Market
During the following decade, 2020-2030, the IoT healthcare market is undoubtedly expected to grow as the Internet of Things is considered a key component in the digital transformation of the healthcare industry. That is why more and more stakeholders are stepping up their effort in this area, rapidly expanding the IoT healthcare market. Take a look at the following statistic to compare the size of the IoT healthcare market at different stages of its development.
This tendency is truly impressive as the IoT market is expanding at a rapid pace. But what are the actual reasons for growth in the implementation of this modern technology? Here we gathered some of the most significant ones:
The global pandemic has positively influenced providers’ willingness to implement IoT solutions. That is because IoT helps track and diagnose diverse viruses, and coronavirus is not an exception.
As reports The National Center for Biotechnology Information, “For COVID‐19 quarantine and contact tracing purposes, IoT is advantageous due to its ability to track biometric measurements, such as the heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose levels of high‐risk patients and trace infected patients, to enable timely information sharing and accurate detection of suspected/infected cases.”
At the same time, authorities widely use IoT to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. IoT is also combined with other transformative technologies such as Cloud technology and Artificial intelligence (A.I.). For example, hospitals in Wuhan, China, utilized devices synced with an A.I. According to CBNC, both patients and doctors wore smart bracelets and rings that synced with CloudMinds’ A.I. platform to monitor different vital signs, such as heart rate, temperature, blood oxygen level, etc. This technology not only helped to track infected people’s current condition but also assisted in identifying people with the early phase of infection.
The potential of IoT devices in terms of remote monitoring is promising. Why? Well, the answer is pretty simple – this technology helps keep patients healthy and safe, along with allowing healthcare professionals to deliver better care. While IoT makes interactions with doctors easier and more efficient, it also increases patient engagement and satisfaction. Another crucial benefit refers to the ability to decrease the time patients spent in the hospital. That is because IoT-based remote monitoring helps prevent readmissions, so patients can return to their everyday life without the risk of being infected again.
2. Virtual Reality (VR): Immersive Technology that Really Benefits Healthcare
Nowadays, immersive technologies are considered an ongoing trend in many diverse industries such as gaming, manufacturing, and retail, to mention just a few. It is essential to note that healthcare also has a multitude of possible VR implementations. From large hospitals to therapeutic rooms, VR is continually expanding its presence and is expected to grow in the coming years.
Taking into account this data, it is logical to assume the VR has made a significant contribution to the digital transformation in the healthcare industry, and it is not the limit of its potential. Let’s explore in which ways VR can boost the digital transformation in healthcare:
In the 21st century, modern society is facing an opioid crisis that negatively impacts about 2 million Americans.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including healthcare costs, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
However, how to solve this problem? The main reason for the crisis is the regular prescribing of opioid painkillers, which are very addictive. This issue can be solved by partial or complete replacement of opioid pain relievers by other methods for pain management, like VR apps. Virtual reality can significantly decrease pain signals, especially for those who experience more severe pain. Besides, this technology also allows managing chronic soreness or discomfort during long-lasting painful procedures. Here are some of possible VR pain-relieving applications in healthcare:
Epidural anesthesia is considered a dangerous method of dealing with discomfort during childbirth. However, it is extremely painful to give birth without any pain management, so most women are not ready to refuse epidural anesthesia. Fortunately, VR provides an alternative solution that is much safer than drugs. Just imagine the situation: the woman wears a VR headset, where she sees soothing pictures of nature, and a background voice tells her how to breathe correctly. This method of pain relief has been repeatedly tested in practice and has received many positive reviews from patients.
Bandage replacement and wound care is a very painful procedure that is constantly faced by patients with burns. Therefore, as an alternative to medical pain relief, burn survivors started using VR gaming to lessen the excruciating pain. VR was found to decrease pain levels, anxiety, and time spent thinking about pain. Another alternative option is augmented hypnosis. Procedurally, such hypnosis is administered by providing the patient with an audio recording of hypnotic induction, suggestions for pain relief, and then drifting the participant into the virtual world.
Want to know more about VR pain-relieving capabilities? Read our article – VR Solutions As Pain Relievers: Use Cases and Examples and find out how virtual reality can help people manage pain and other symptoms!
A good dental clinic always tries to make the patient’s visit as pleasant as possible. However, dental treatment usually causes discomfort to the patient. How to reduce uncomfortable feelings? The best solution is a VR application that can relax your patients during painful procedures. With virtual headsets, dentists can transport patients to an artificial environment to help them cope with the fear of the treatment or any painful feelings. For instance, you can show meditation videos, educational tutorials about oral care, or stories about your hospital that will be interesting and useful to patients. In addition to this, these videos also may be used as a powerful marketing tool to promote your service.
Are you interested in VR applications in the field of dentistry? We already have something for you – Why VR/AR Solutions Should Be a Part of Your Successful Dental Practice!
VR Simulations: See the World from Another Perspective
Have you ever wondered what it is like to live with disabilities/health problems? Modern technologies can help you undergo such an experience. With Embodied Labs, VR users can feel what it is like to live with existing bad health conditions. The company’s famous product called “We Are Alfred” transforms users into Alfred, a 74-year old African-American with macular degeneration and high-frequency hearing loss.
“Students would put on the headset, and even though they would read in their introduction that they were about to embody Alfred, they would immediately say, ‘There’s something broken, I can’t see.’ Or, ‘Turn up the volume, I can’t hear,’ and then realize [that was the point],” Shaw, Founder of Embodied Labs, emphasizes.
Therefore, such VR simulations allow users to realize how people suffering from deadly diseases feel. Furthermore, this technology also boosts the digital transformation of education: students who research and study a specific disease can better understand its symptoms due to life-like VR experiences.
A New Word in Surgery
It is a well-known fact that repetitive training on simulators appears to be an inseparable part of surgeons’ education. Nevertheless, simulators are often expensive and usually simulate only a single procedure. Being more effective and affordable, VR undoubtedly solves this challenge by providing students and already practicing surgeons with the ability to learn or practice skills/techniques anytime and anywhere without any additional resources despite their VR headset and motion controllers. For instance, Harvard Business Review conducted interesting research that compared VR and non-VR trained surgeons’ results:
Hence, the consequences of this study prove that VR-trained participants show better results which also proves that virtual reality technology signifies the digital transformation of surgery, one of the most crucial healthcare segments.
Big Data in Digital Transformation
To start with, let’s explain the term big data. In particular, this phrase means collecting business data from diverse sources of information, including online transactions, social media, eCommerce, and identifies patterns and trends for future use. Looking beyond its general meaning, big data may be highly beneficial in healthcare, especially from the perspective of digital transformation. Read on and find out what advantages big data provides for healthcare organizations:
Lower Rate of Medication Errors
Thanks to patient record analysis, the software can detect any inconsistencies between a person’s health and drug prescriptions, alerting both doctors and patients when there is a possible risk of a prescription error.
Many of people stepping into hospitals are recurring patients. Therefore, well-organized data records help healthcare professionals organize their work more effectively, along with providing patients with quick responses to their requests.
Due to big data’s predictive capabilities, healthcare organizations can estimate future admission rates, so these facilities can allocate the proper staff to deal with patients. In this way, hospitals save money, decrease patients’ waiting time, and prevent understaffing.
4. Blockchain & Electronic Health Records (EHR): Here is the Connection
Blockchain, a computerized database of transactions, is shared across a network of computers, allowing users to safely exchange financial data with suppliers without the necessity of a third party (e.g., bank). But how can it be used in healthcare? Let’s find the answer together.
The Current State of EHR
Nowadays, medical data are recorded in unstructured ways with the use of multiple EHR systems. Thus, short-staffed doctors and nurses often face problems with logging in every piece of information, which frequently leads to duplicate medical records, misdiagnoses, delayed treatments, and even deaths.
Why Digital Transformation with Blockchain Is the Best Solution
Blockchain technology helps avoid these adverse issues by effectively managing medical records and transactions among patients, healthcare providers, and insurance companies. What is more, the decentralized network of computers that handle the blockchain and simultaneously register every transaction quickly detects conflicting information and therefore minimizes potential risks. After all, blockchain is proven to be an effective tool in blocking healthcare data breaches, enhancing the accuracy of medical records, and lowering costs.
To Sum Up
Digital transformation in healthcare in 2021 looks quite promising, doesn’t it? Even though the world has just entered its digitalization phase, the healthcare industry has already undergone multiple changes caused by this important process.
Like any successful company, business, or industry, healthcare aims to deliver services and products that improve the lives of billions of people from all over the world. And technology undoubtedly can help realize this goal. Use this article as a compass to navigate your way through the digital healthcare space, stay aware of modern trends, and keep an eye on your health. All in all, just remember: the further away, the greater technologies are coming!