Orbitum Insight

5 trends in digitalizing healthcare (and how going digital can help your patients)

Digital solutions are transforming healthcare. Here’s what we’ve seen so far...

5 trends in digitalizing healthcare (and how going digital can help your patients)

The digital age is here. And it’s here to stay.

Digital transformation has impacted every corner of the business world, from the ice cream truck using contactless payments to decentralized fintech banks with online-only accounts.

It comes as no surprise, then, that healthcare is getting in on the act too — with some truly incredible results. Digital solutions are transforming healthcare; making it possible for people across the world to live more fulfilling lives.

Where the digitization of healthcare will take us, who knows. But here’s what we’ve seen so far...

What is digitalization — and why should healthcare businesses pay attention?

Believe it or not, there was once a time when people feared the internet, believing it would usurp television and books as our media of choice (which, in some ways, it has) — and that it would bring ruin on our young people (which, in many ways, it hasn’t).

Instead, the internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, the way we do business, and the way we take care of our health.

Digitalization, also known as digital transformation, is a term used to describe the shift from conventional analogue processes to purely digital ones. This means key business systems will be run on digital platforms — often cloud-based — as opposed to conventional means, such as telephone and in-person exchanges.

Digitalizing healthcare won’t just improve the experience for the consumer (or patient, in this case), but the internal employees of a healthcare business, too.

Here’s how:

  • Streamlined communication between patients and staff. Whether it’s avoiding lengthy phone queues by using live chat or automated booking systems, digital solutions open up the world of communication.
  • Freeing up the time of health practitioners. With digital back-end systems in healthcare practices, much of the service side of the business — like prescriptions — can be handled with decentralized digital systems. This empowers HCPs to focus on work that really makes an impact.

Automation to speed up appointment management. Managing appointments can lead to a lot of wasted time — making them, changing them, and cancelling them — for HCPs and patients alike. This is something digital solutions can replace and improve almost instantly.

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Digitization of healthcare: 5 trend-setting examples

Now that you’re familiar with what digitalization is, and how it applies to businesses in the healthcare vertical, let’s get a bit more practical.

Here are our hand-picked examples of the best uses of digital technology in healthcare in 2020… and beyond.

#1: Blockchain-based healthcare records

You might have heard the term ‘blockchain’ in a few other places recently — specifically within the realm of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

But blockchain is about far more than digital currencies: it’s a fully-fledged information sharing technology with near-bulletproof security.

It works a bit like a peer-reviewed digital ledger, whereby all information in the list must be checked and approved by at least a few others. This third-party verification makes it almost impossible to crack blockchain security, so it’s ideal for storing sensitive data in a decentralized way.

It’s here that digitized healthcare steps into the spotlight, as blockchain is the ideal choice for storing long-term healthcare records. Rather than patient data being stored on disparate databases across multiple systems and geographies, the data would instead live in the blockchain.

In this way, the data wouldn’t technically be stored in any single location, and could be accessed by other systems for interoperability across the globe.

#2: Healthcare-based wearable integration

Wearable technology is in full bloom as of 2020, with more of us than ever wearing fitness trackers or smartwatches on our wrists.

On top of that, most modern smartphones include some form of biometric tracking, such as step counters and more. The smartwatch area has even more to offer from a healthcare standpoint, with the latest Apple Watch line including a built-in ECG monitor.

It should go without saying just how valuable this biometric tracking is for the healthcare industry and digitalization. With such detailed metrics about a patient’s on-going health, doctors can make more informed decisions — even from across the world.

In addition, they can use the metrics tracked by wearable tech to assess a patient’s condition over time. Everything from heart rate to blood sugar levels can now be tracked using mobile apps and smartphone peripherals.

#3: The introduction of 5G and the new age of real-time digital healthcare

Like it or not, 5G is coming. And it’s bringing with it a whole universe of possibilities when it comes to digital healthcare.

In fact, 5G is perhaps the most important evolution of digital healthcare. Why? Because it enables practically real-time interactions between patients and healthcare practitioners anywhere, anytime.

Imagine a reality in which a doctor is able to see — in fine-grain detail — the precise condition of a patient, even in the most remote of places. With 5G, internet speeds will multiply by a factor of 10 on average compared to 4G — that’s average speeds of 150-200Mbps.

In real terms? Such speeds create seamless interaction with remote systems, as well as crystal-clear streamed video — so doctors and healthcare professionals can work faster and more efficiently than ever before.

#4: Doctors prescribing mobile apps for patient diagnosis

In some places of the world, digitization of healthcare has already begun to take root — and what we’re seeing is pretty exciting indeed.

In Germany, healthcare digitization has taken huge strides, thanks to the Digital Healthcare Act (DVG) of 2019.

As part of this act, doctors are encouraged to actually prescribe mobile apps as healthcare aids and treatments for patients in need. Such apps might be used for tracking healthcare conditions, to remind a patient to take their medication, to test their blood sugar, or really anything else that’s required.

With mobile digital technology advancing at an incredible rate, there’s really no limit to the healthcare apps we may see in patients’ hands in years to come. Who needs pills anyway?

#5: Digital video consultations becoming the new normal in primary care

We’ve heard a lot about the “new normal” in 2020, but it’s not all bad. In fact, when it comes to the digitization of healthcare, some of these changes are very positive indeed.

Depending on where you are, you might have found that organizing a trip to the doctor is no longer about sitting in a waiting room (with people who are probably sick) and then talking to the doctor face-to-face for 5 minutes. Instead, video consultations are becoming the first-line approach.

And if you think about it, there are plenty of conditions for which face-to-face chats aren’t really necessary.

Provided the doctor doesn’t need to physically examine the patient, video call consultations are a great solution to reduce friction, save time, and prevent the spread of illnesses.

The best part? This dovetails perfectly with the introduction of 5G, which will make 4K quality video calls a reality in most modern homes. A crystal-clear connection will provide doctors with all the visual and verbal information they need — leaving patients feeling safe, secure, and well looked after.

Digital, mobile, and how it’s all converging for a better healthcare experience

You may have noticed something about the trends we’ve shared above: many of them are tailor-made for mobile.

This is no coincidence.

With over 50% of total web traffic now coming from mobile devices, there’s no question that mobile is a big part of digitization today — and in the future.

What does that mean for a healthcare business looking to digitize its services? It’s simple: designing for mobile should be front-of-mind when it comes to taking the leap.

In addition to all of the trends we showcased above, the mobile experience simply lends itself very well to the healthcare space. Here are just a few of the reasons:

  • Healthcare services anytime, anywhere. With mobile apps powering healthcare services, users will be able to access primary services without the need for a computer — or a face-to-face visit.
  • Instant access to individual healthcare data. Even if consumers don’t wear health-based wearables like fitness trackers, even the most basic smartphones record some level of activity metrics by default. And, chances are, this feature set will only continue to grow.
  • Greater flexibility in tracking activity. The world has moved on from noting down our activity in notebooks. With smartphone mobile apps, healthcare providers have greater choice when it comes to requesting logs. What’s more, this behavior is more natural for patients, too. After all, it’s simply laborious to jot down with pen and paper what you ate that day, or how many miles you clocked up on the treadmill. But opening an app and clicking a few buttons? Everyone has time for that — especially if it’s gamified.

Ready for your own digital healthcare transformation?

At Orbitum, we’ve already helped a number of healthcare businesses realize the true value of mobile digital processes — and we’d love to do the same for you.

Like all good things in life, it starts with a conversation. So get in touch today and let’s see how far digital could take your healthcare business.

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