Even as Southeast Asia continues to grapple with the challenges of the ongoing pandemic, the healthcare industry in the region is already looking towards the future, and putting in place plans for an endemic COVID-19.
From evolving patient needs, to new government regulations, to innovative types of medical equipment and infrastructure, there are likely to be many changes in the new normal that hospitals will have to adapt to.
The good news is that the pandemic has helped to accelerate healthcare’s digital journey, with the large majority of medical providers now utilising new technologies like telemedicine, automation and even artificial intelligence in their operations and processes.
And Putty Kartika, Country Director at GE Healthcare Indonesia, believes that the widespread digitalisation in hospitals during the pandemic has laid the foundations for healthcare to pivot to the new normal.
“The pandemic was the trigger to accelerate this necessary digital transformation for many healthcare facilities,” said Putty.
“Digitalisation will be key to helping hospitals achieve their future goal – this can include the implementation a robust Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system, enhancing workflows, or providing faster and more efficient services to their patients.
“The younger generation is now more digitally-savvy, which means that patients in the future will likely be more comfortable in a digital setting. Digitalisation will also open up countless opportunities for healthcare providers to offer their services globally.”
Putty added that the time is ripe for hospitals to seize this opportunity to establish themselves as a leader in the healthcare industry on the digital front.
There remain, however, several challenges that hospitals will likely face in their digital journey in the new normal.
Explained Putty: “The biggest hurdle on this digital journey is how to change the behaviour of patients to be accepting of these technological changes.
“I believe this can be done through continuous communication and education to the patients to foster its adoption, especially for market segments which are either not digitally-savvy, have do not have easy access to technology.
“More importantly, however, there must also be a shift in the working culture within the healthcare organisation to one that embraces digital wholeheartedly.”
With the pandemic showing no signs of abating just yet, healthcare providers will likely face more challenges in the near future.
Putty, however, is confident that by adopting new digital technology, medical facilities will be able to overcome those obstacles with greater ease.
“In the era of the new normal, minimising contact with patients will be an important aspect of hospital management, and I believe that can only be done with digital technology,” said Putty.
“Moving forward, there will likely also be the situation where healthcare providers find themselves needing to enhance their workflow, provide faster and more efficient services, and be able to handle the rapidly growing amount of data available.
“The rapid growth of start-ups in health-tech sector, as well as the growing acceptance of telemedicine will help to address those needs.
“Information systems like PACS (Picture Archive and Communication System) and RIS (Radiology Information System) are now getting more and more connected within healthcare ecosystems.”
Putty also believes that a common problem faced by medical providers in having a lack of healthcare equipment – which leads to a bottleneck in patient flow – can be addressed by either producing more affordable medical equipment, or through “improving the existing workflow with digital solutions”.
She cited the example of how GE Healthcare’s Centricity Cardio Enterprise Solution has been able to help cardiologists provide higher quality and more efficient cardiovascular services to their patients, by providing a single point of access for waveforms, structured data, reports, images and advanced analysis & workflow tools, among other features.
The efficient management of data, in particular, is something that Putty foresees the healthcare industry will have to find ways of handling in future.
She elaborated: “Big data in healthcare remains a challenge globally, from a regulation perspective to the cybersecurity aspect of it.
“But healthcare providers will soon have to use big data to drive their decision making process, especially with wearable technology becoming more commonplace. Because once these new digital technologies are applied, there will be huge data explosion in the industry that healthcare providers will have to find a way to maintain, while also benefitting from it.
“This is why I believe big data analytics will become the next big thing in healthcare. If healthcare providers are able to harness the value of these big data effectively, then they will definitely be able to optimise service and care quality for their patients.”