Exploring New Fronts in Digital Healthcare
A cursory look at the journey of human species from days of yore to present day would suffice to reveal one undeniable propelling factor or motive behind this journey: an instinct to survive.
Inherent survival instinct coupled with inquisitive nature of our species has worked wonders as today we enjoy the luxuries and facilities which our ancestors could only have dreamt of. We are always in a relentless pursuit to discover and invent and in this process, sometimes such revelations happen which change the course of mankind for coming centuries.
Arguably, last century can be declared the century of digital electronics, computers and internet. Novel inventions and groundbreaking discoveries in these fields have altered the way we communicate, think and live our lives. But it is not in human nature to rest on its laurels and we often find ourselves pondering on what could be the next improvement, the next discovery. It is not surprising that with all this technology at our disposal, our survival instincts would not lay dormant and would compel us to think how could this technology be harnessed to reap health benefits.
Digital Healthcare is an offspring of modern age digital technology and centuries of healthcare knowledge. Broadly, digital healthcare involves the use of digital technology to provide healthcare solutions with an objective of ameliorating quality and lowering costs. However, this mingling of technology and traditional healthcare has a lot of intricacies and challenges which must be dealt with before fully actualising its potential. Following are a few key frontiers which need to be explored by entrepreneurs, healthcare providers, governments and investors.
Integration with existing healthcare infrastructure
Digitising the existing health records of patients in form of a database to generate Electronic Health Records (EHR)
Sharing of EHRs among all health providers (hospitals, agencies) to avoid red tape
Automating the administrative tasks such as appointments, test results
Training of existing medical staff to handle new digital systems
Web/mobile portals to help physicians in diagnosis and cure
Platform to review medical mobile applications to help physicians and patients select the good ones
Data Analytics and Internet of Things
EHRs will generate a huge pool of medical data which can be used by data scientists and engineers for analysis
Development of tools for practitioners to analyse this medical data
Wearable fitness gadgets and smartphones collectively referred to as Internet of Things (IoT) are also generating chunks of data which can give an insight in attitudes of consumers towards health
Great potential for predicting diseases through genetics and lifestyle data mining and thus suggesting early care
In addition to developed countries with existing healthcare infrastructure, developing countries such as India, Philippines,Thailand, Pakistan and Bangladesh can benefit a lot from digital healthcare.
Governments will be interested in implementing cheap digital healthcare solutions for remote rural areas thus lowering the burden on existing network.
Telemedicine, natural disasters relief and rehabilitation will improve the living conditions of people
Research and Development
Interdisciplinary research efforts combining medicine, engineering and other fields
Collaboration with practitioners to understand their needs
Aiding healthcare professionals with robotics
Development of medical gadgets for personalised use which are able to integrate with a central database
Exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs to contribute and grow
As realm of healthcare moves from centralized to a more distributed paradigm, healthcare companies and insurers need to come up with new business models
Patient will be more like a customer with options to chose what is best for him because of myriad information available.
Improving the service quality and lowering the costs should be mantra of modern healthcare companies
People taking more control of their healthcare options instead of relying on a centralised monolithic system
Personalised gadgets and online portals can diagnose the unhealthy patterns in lifestyles and issue notifications thus making people more aware of their choices
As information is a valuable resource, it will be a great challenge to assure people of sanctity of their privacy and the way their data is used by research institutions
Since it is a burgeoning field, standards and protocols need to be developed to expedite the progress and avoid the confusion among various entities working on same problem through their own perspectives.
We have come a long way to be at this stage of medical history of human civilisation where we are ready to explore new avenues. Benefits are innumerable but we will have to keep our hunger for a better tomorrow alive to overcome the challenges mentioned above.