Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Wednesday, September 20, 2017
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The New World of Healthcare Digital Transformation 

Digital transformation is having a profound impact on our society. According to IDC, the economic value of digital transformation is already more than 20 percent of global GDP. And while we’ll certainly feel the impact of changes to many aspects of our daily lives as technology progresses, the transformation of healthcare will be particularly impactful.

One of the last industries to transform, cloud computing and digital is now finally seeing traction in healthcare. As of 2015, 96 percent of hospitals in the United States reported having certified EHR technology, a 24 percent increase from 2011. Cloud spending is expected to grow 20 percent annually until 2020, meaning more hospitals will have the infrastructure needed to create the conditions for innovation.

As we’ve seen across other industries, moving to the cloud and digitizing healthcare assets will cut IT costs and improve operational efficiency. But through my work helping healthcare providers modernize their IT systems, I’ve come to realize there’s an even bigger opportunity that goes much further than cost savings: the opportunity to radically improve the entire healthcare experience and empower patients in the process.

We all know healthcare is vast and complex. There are many issues, unrelated to IT, that contribute significantly to the time, money and resources that healthcare consumes. IT can help inspire solutions and uncover new value to fix these issues.

Precision Medicine Systems

Improvements in compute power, infrastructure software and storage are enabling development of precision medicine systems – technology that connects patient data with analytic systems to help providers deliver preventive, not reactionary, healthcare.

Companies like SAP are developing systems that allow healthcare organizations to track chronic diseases and deliver systems of insight that weren’t possible before. Soon, clinicians in any organization can leverage Big Data analytics to provide custom healthcare based on each patient’s unique set of circumstances, and compare their treatments and symptoms with similar ones.

Take genomic sequencing. In 2001, the sequencing of one human genome cost $100 million and took months to analyze. Today, sequencing a genome costs $1000 and is completed in an hour, if not minutes. The impact of these technological advancements cannot be overstated and is a testament to just how life-changing improvements in IT can be.

Improving Patient Engagement and the Patient Experience

 Most doctors will tell you a major challenge of the patient experience is medicine-based treatments, most of which rely on manual self-reporting – on a daily or weekly basis. Self-reporting and self-monitoring can lead to less effective treatment and higher costs for both the clinician and patient.

Digital transformation will bring about an entirely connected experience between patient and provider. Connected pill bottles, for example, will ensure that only the prescribed amount will be dispensed to the patient, as well as provide reminders about when to take the medication and automatic refill requests when needed. That means doctors will be able to know when a patient has taken his/her medicine, if the patient has any unexpected reactions, and from this information make the decision to change the overall treatment plans in real-time.

Doctors will also be able to help patients over video in real-time, any time. Just imagine: a patient with diabetes that is struggling to take his/her insulin shot can be coached by the doctor remotely. And by combining the data generated from fitness trackers with health records, clinics will use machine learning to develop insights and recommendations to improve your health, or in the case of a diabetes patient, checking daily blood sugar levels.

The patient experience is already improving. Doctors are now able to make virtual house calls and consultations and the wearable medical device market is set to take off with an 18 percent yearly growth rate between now and 2021. Across the board, IT investments in patient engagement and remote patient monitoring continue to be the focus of healthcare organization agendas.

Where do we go from here?

 Just as the smartphone has empowered all of us with a world of information at our fingertips, digital transformation will do the same for us with healthcare. With almost all hospitals in the U.S. being certified for EHR, and significant breakthroughs in cloud and Big Data, digital transformation is well under way. Hospitals are in the early stages of adopting infrastructures that will enable them to begin providing truly patient-focused healthcare.

In 10 years, expect a completely patient-centric experience. Patients and their preferred providers will have access to their health data at any time, from any device. Your detailed health data will be used to proactively prevent avoidable diseases, and treatments will be adjusted in real-time.

We’re at an industry tipping point and are about to experience significant, sweeping transformation. As the industry finally drives toward the cloud, we can expect to foresee technology impacts that will change healthcare as we know it. We’ll look back in 10 years and ask ourselves, “How did we ever do without this?”

Simon Walsh is chief operating officer of Virtustream.

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