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Digital Transformation Trends In Healthcare To Watch In 2021

By News Creatives Authors , in Small Business , at November 18, 2021

Vladimir Lugovsky is the Co-Founder and CEO of digital product development agency Akveo and low-code SaaS startup UI Bakery.

Since last year, the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging humanity and the medical industry in particular. While the present situation is more or less stable, the fourth wave of the virus spread cannot be taken lightly. On the positive side, the quarantine-related havoc accelerated digital transformation across medical institutions worldwide. Digital health ventures bloomed, and funding grew by a whopping 72% compared to 2018.

The lockdown also changed our attitude toward digitality in healthcare. In pre-pandemic times, patients rarely resorted to digital diagnosis services if they had a choice to visit a clinician. Nowadays, online medical services have become the “new normal,” and more and more patients expect medical care in a flexible and personalized form. 

The Process Of Transformation

Through my work in digital product development, I pay attention to digital transformation trends in various industries, and the healthcare domain is one of the fastest-growing in terms of digitization. Before plunging into trends, let’s observe the process of digital transformation as a whole. Just like in other industries, the technological evolution in healthcare proceeds in three phases: 

• digitalization adoption;

• old technology’s gradual abandonment;

• eventual transformation. 

At the stage of digitalization, new tools support routine processes or services, e.g., computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or account management.

In the second phase, new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data and the cloud replace outdated ones and become commonplace. Finally, as healthcare evolves, disparate systems become increasingly integrated, bringing together digital functions and processes in a single interconnected ecosystem.

At the same time, the industry has a long way to go toward definitive transformation. The healthcare sector is constantly facing various challenges, including tight regulations and privacy concerns, that slow down progress. Despite the growing industry trend toward transformation, many medical organizations are still at the first stage of technology adoption. 

Digital Transformation Trends In Healthcare

• Telehealth

Virtual care existed long before Covid-19. However, the global lockdowns catalyzed huge uptakes in telemedicine adoption. During the pandemic, the use of telemedicine skyrocketed as the technology helped eliminate unwanted contacts while allowing patients to manage their conditions. As many as 30% of U.S. adults claimed their intent to use telemedicine in the early months of 2020.

The financial aspect plays its part, too. According to a Healthleaders’ report, patient diversion from emergency departments using telemedicine saves healthcare providers up to $1,500 per visit. Although insurers are raising concerns about telehealth coverage, the technology is likely to stay even when the pandemic is over.

Telemedicine is all about inclusivity and convenience — more patients have the opportunity to access health-related care, including disabled people and those living in remote areas. 

• AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is being applied in healthcare to early diagnosis prediction. Thanks to machine learning models that depend on large data sets, including age and patient conditions, healthcare professionals can spot diseases at earlier stages. What’s more, it’s possible to forecast a possible illness long before its symptoms manifest themselves.  

AI technology is especially important when talking about severe disease. IBM released findings that its model could detect breast cancer in astonishing 87% of cases analyzed. With AI, medical experts can make decisions based on their experience as well as data, taking their decision-making to a whole new level. Thanks to AI, the future foundation of healthcare could be built around preventive measures rather than treatment. 

The biggest obstacle in adoption is putting trust in AI-based technologies, for both clinicians and patients. The healthcare domain relies heavily on human expertise, and doctors should see technological systems as a reliable complement to that. 

• Medical IoT

Healthcare is often viewed as a conservative and slow-moving domain, leading to many vendors underestimating the industry’s unique needs. Even though the implementation of the internet of things in the healthcare sector has been slow for quite a long time, medical IoT is developing rapidly.

While the medical internet of things may seem complex and contain many solutions, use cases can be built around several core functions, ranging from simple tracking solutions to complex automation. In turn, these functions can serve as the key pillars of a smart hospital: clinical excellence, patient-centered care and operational efficacy.

When implementing medical IoT, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind. The vast amount of data generated by connected medical devices opens up many opportunities in healthcare. A proper IoT implementation strategy will enable organizations to create appropriate infrastructure and draw a detailed plan for future needs. 

• Connected Ecosystems

Healthcare IT is evolving into centralized and holistic corporate IT infrastructures that help improve patient-oriented services, data management and interoperability. In today’s world, ecosystems and data-driven products are vital for remaining competitive in the dynamic market and for minimizing business risks. 

As medical devices become more interconnected, various services share data insights in real time, creating an improved user experience. That new reality helps healthcare providers work faster and more efficiently while reducing costs at the same time.

Advances in EMR and other technologies are also helping create closer synergies between medical institutions, healthcare providers and other business domains. According to IBM’s report, 43% of surveyed healthcare professionals say that boundaries between healthcare and other industries are blurring. 

To Sum Up

All these technological advances are reimagining healthcare as we know it, and professional help is now accessible and affordable for more and more people. Both large corporations and startups are accelerating change and driving innovation. At the same time, healthcare is a conservative industry in regard to disruptive innovations and product development. The classic agile approach cannot be applied in its pure form, especially in treatment and diagnostic processes. After all, one deals with human lives. 

It’s important to understand that digital transformation in healthcare is an ongoing process. It involves a complete restructuring of healthcare institutions and other organizations, and changes won’t happen overnight. Instead, healthcare is evolving from disparate fragments into an integrated ecosystem. That approach enables healthcare providers to successfully tackle significant problems while maintaining patient focus and value-based care.


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