The digital transformation of the healthcare industry is well and truly underway, with many medical institutions and patients alike now widely utilising technologies such as telehealth, smart wearables, and other various digital applications.
While most healthcare providers had already taken the first steps in embracing digital before COVID-19 struck, it was the pandemic that forced many of them to accelerate the digitalisation of their operations and processes.
But, this is only the beginning.
The vast potential for technology in healthcare is yet to be realised – from artificial intelligence, to robotics, to alternative models of care, there are myriad of possibilities that could arise from the industry’s digital revolution.
And Fabrice Leguet, Managing Director of Siemens Healthineers, Southeast Asia, believes that the continued digitalisation of healthcare will ultimately lead to better clinical outcomes for patients.
“We believe the digitalisation of healthcare, today and in the future, is the basis for value-based and patient-centred medicine,” said Leguet.
“In future, even without the pandemic, we will see investments not only in telemedicine, but also in digital technologies that will focus on patient engagement, care coordination and enabling a remote workforce. Patients will receive even more precise treatments, which will impact their safety and quality of life.
“We also believe that embracing digital technology will be key in helping Southeast Asia’s health industry bridge the gap between access and the affordability of care.”
Making healthcare more accessible
According to the findings from Siemens Healthineers’ Insight Series whitepaper, an estimated 20% of Emergency Department visits and 24% of potential office and outpatient visits could be shifted to a virtual care delivery model.
The widespread use of telehealth during the pandemic has also proven the viability of remote care, and Leguet fully expects this trend to continue in the ‘new normal’.
“A digital connection in the form of a website, an online portal, a mobile phone application, or a technological interface through wearables, can now serve as the first entry point for those seeking care or medical information,” Leguet said.
“The simple fact is that healthcare providers no longer need to be physically close to their patients.”
One way Siemens Healthineers has made healthcare more accessible using digital technology is through their virtual diagnostic platform, syngo Virtual Cockpit.
Through the platform, healthcare providers are able to offer specialty imaging diagnostic services to regions that may not have the necessary expertise, or the manpower, to provide the requisite quality of care to patients.
In Japan, for example, the syngo virtual cockpit solution enabled Siemens Healthineers to seamlessly connect eight MRI scanners that were installed on different isolated islands in the country, to the main diagnostic centre in Okinawa.
MRI technologists in Okinawa were therefore able to virtually manage the scanning of patients on those islands – this solution helped to overcome previously pertinent issues such as a lack of skilled MRI technicians, inconsistent MRI results, and long commutes.
“Such virtual platforms come with manifold benefits especially when highly qualified staff are hard to come by and are a relevant cost factor,” Leguet elaborated.
“In addition, some procedures are simply less common than others. This, for instance, leads to a situation in which some technologists are unable to perform all examinations confidently or with the same efficiency.”
The future of remote monitoring in healthcare
Another trend in healthcare that has emerged during the pandemic has been the advent of remote monitoring devices that can transmit vital patient information – such as blood pressure, glucose level, and blood oxygen level, among others – to their clinicians around the clock.
Leguet recounted how Siemens Healthineers partnered with The Heart and Diabetes Centre North Rhine-Westphalia (HDZ) in Germany to develop a telehealth solution called HerzConnect, which enabled the medical institution to monitor patients with cardiovascular diseases.
This involved patients wearing certified medical devices, which would transmit vital data to HDZ around the clock via a smartphone application and a secure data connection.
Specialists at HDZ would then study the data and discuss their findings with the patients in planned, regular phone calls. During these calls, the specialists would also coach and train their patients on the best ways to manage their respective diseases, to ensure guideline-compliant treatment.
According to Leguet, however, for remote monitoring in healthcare to work effectively, patients will have to first be fully engaged and cooperative with their clinician.
“It all begins with engagement. Patients must be willing to do their part, helping to generate the data that healthcare providers require…to provide better care,” said Leguet. “In addition, the generated data can then be aggregated in an electronic health record.
“With electronic health records, patients can upload and access their health data and information anywhere, anytime and decide upon access authorisation rights to share relevant data with the physicians of their choice.
“It further allows physicians to access data that has previously been locked away in silos of information systems throughout the healthcare infrastructure. It also has the advantage to promote the active participation of the patients in their care process.”
Preparing for the tectonic shift of digital transformation in healthcare
The pandemic has transformed healthcare in many significant ways, and, as more countries begin transitioning towards an endemic COVID-19, Leguet suggests that it is imperative for medical providers to “relook at their business models”, as well as “enhance preparedness” to respond to any new infectious disease events in future.
In order to prepare themselves for the challenges of the ‘new normal’, healthcare providers will need to continue on their digital journey, as Leguet explained: “Digital transformation can be only successful and sustainable if healthcare providers move beyond adopting technology solutions and begin to transform their institutions.”
Leguet, however, insists that successful digitalisation in healthcare involves more than just investment in new technology, and requires a holistic transformation across the ecosystem.
He said: “What we need to understand is, digital transformation is not just about investing in digital technology, but also investing in employee training, creating governance and compliance strategies and implementing security measures to manage data, ownership and privacy risks.
“Healthcare providers cannot implement this transformation without engaging a trusted partner. One of the business models for business continuity is enduring value-generating partnerships (Value Partnerships) between healthcare providers and medtech companies.
“These companies can help providers leverage technology to upgrade their organisations both in the near term, to better cope with the urgency of the pandemic, and in the long term, by investing in strategic digitalization efforts and deliver meaningful improvements in clinical and financial outcomes.
“Particularly, in the emerging markets like Southeast Asia, where organisations may not have a digital infrastructure in place, or have yet to embark on their digital journey, significant investments will have to be made in skilled talents, resources, and building organisation-wide capabilities to see through the development of their digital strategy to execution and ensure sustainability.”
To find out more about reimagining healthcare in the near normal, join esteemed speakers from Siemens Healthineers at HMA 2021 this September. Click here to register for the conference today!