Emerging technologies converging to transform healthcare

Hema Purohit, Advisory Services, VMware 

Jens Koegler, Healthcare Industry Director, VMware 

The healthcare industry has never been one to shy away from technology – in some instances it’s a pioneer. However, there are also others, such as front-line hospitals, that have traditionally been much slower with adoption. But how emerging technologies, like 5G, Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), and artificial intelligence (AI), are integrated into day-to-day operations is, quite literally a matter of life and death, and a major focus for the sector today. Never more has it been apparent that this sector thrives on technologies that allow for hospitals, doctors and healthcare staff to adapt and change.

It’s a topic our Emerging Technologies in Healthcare report looks at in detail. It found that more than two thirds (68%) of healthcare providers are digitally transforming because they are seeking improved quality of care for patients.

The consumerisation of healthcare

According to the 2019 Global Health Care Outlook from Deloitte, global spending on healthcare is predicted to rise to $10,059 trillion in 2022. When it comes to technology, healthcare providers anticipate boosting their budgets by at least 10% this year alone. However, in reality it is likely to be significantly more as Covid 19 responses are not only dictating immediate changes around flexible working, but these changes will become the new normal once the pandemic is clear. Though this may have ramifications in terms of delays or funding cuts to long-term projects that have been disrupted by this outbreak which may constrain budgets in the immediate aftermath. Nevertheless, the pandemic has changed thinking on how quickly and safely technology can be integrated into Healthcare.

This is because an increasingly tech-native patient base is demanding greater personalisation in their care. They are looking for the same easy, remote, and intuitive access to healthcare that they get from their retail and banking experiences – tailored, interactive, easy, secure, app-based, for example. This “consumerisation” of healthcare is driving hospitals, clinics, and physician practices to use new technology to build processes and procedures around patient needs rather than traditional healthcare delivery methods like face to face appointments and frequent hospital visits for every stage of diagnosis, treatment and aftercare. Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries would benefit because it would also ensure that waiting rooms would not be clogged in the event of a second wave of the pandemic and the risk for staff and other patients would remain lower. The challenge for the CIO is balancing this increasing consumer demand for simplicity and safety with budgets and other projects.

5G fulfilling the promise of data

With 5G, healthcare will finally come to patients no matter where they happen to be. This technology will accelerate the speed, adoption, and usefulness of telehealth services as well as advance innovation in ways not yet fully imagined. It will also make it possible for providers to better serve elderly, chronically ill, and remote rural populations – all major challenges in the healthcare sector today. This is because a 5G network can aid with operations and applications that require vast amounts of bandwidth with low latency that need to be ultra-reliable in real-time. Things like remote robotic surgery and complex VR applications in assisting surgery are good examples. The impact being that access to and quality of care will help doctors see and treat trends in chronic conditions that were difficult to do previously.

Like most emerging technologies, 5G isn’t yet ready for prime time. Legacy healthcare IT infrastructure must be quickly transitioned to a flexible, software-based digital foundation. Something that is cloud-ready now and future-proofed for when 5G is here. Whatever the new emerging technology, only having one platform to build from will help healthcare organisations adapt at the speed required. This will need to be supported with the appropriate policy and regulation around the telehealth sector too.

Creating the world’s biggest patient data set

IoMT is transforming healthcare operations. Data from “medical things” such as detectors on diagnostic devices or implants in patients’ bodies can be sent to centralised databases for real-time analysis. This is already driving tremendous operational and cost efficiencies and increasing the speed and accuracy of patient care delivery. Wearables, once a fad at the gym, are now real-time clinical monitors. Caregivers will increasingly use them to remotely monitor patients with serious chronic conditions like diabetes. With remote monitoring, patients will make fewer appointments at physical healthcare facilities while being diagnosed and treated more accurately and swiftly, thus avoiding costly complications.

Patients stay healthier – and away from hospitals – while healthcare organisations have lower administrative costs. However, the entire premise of IoMT is that everything is connected and because it is new, all of the medical connectivity and security risks have yet to be uncovered. Though, the fact the IoT is a broadly established technology in and of its own is likely to expedite this. For context, there are already more connected things than people in the world. Tech analyst company IDC predicts that in total there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices by 2025.

AI at the core of healthcare improvement

The potential of AI in healthcare is now becoming reality. It is allowing healthcare leaders to fully mine all the data they collect to improve patient outcomes, such as being able to predict the likelihood of a patient suffering a heart attack or a stroke. Diagnostic reliance on the aptitude of one consultant can now be based on data from hundreds if not thousands of insights and diagnostics, improving accuracy and outcomes.  Marrying AI and Machine Learning (ML) with technologies such as cloud, virtualization, and sensors will provide unprecedented visibility into care and business systems, boosting real-time tracking and analysis, resulting in significant improvements to healthcare operations and patient care. Administrative activities including patient appointment scheduling, billing, and general operations represent an easy, first-step opportunity for its application and we’re starting to see this happen today.

Though fully realising this vision will require investment in technologies that complement or replace legacy systems. Certainly, the immediate role of AI is in tackling the boring and mundane element of healthcare – of which there is a lot – to make it incredibly reliable and consistent and helping the doctors with the time consuming work they don’t want to deal with with the ultimate vision of connecting data and understanding how ailments, medicine, treatments, side effects work together.

From waiting room to living room

Healthcare organisations’ reasons for pursuing digital transformation are varied – from improving care quality and delivering better clinical outcomes, to improving care coordination and reducing readmission rates. Yet, emerging technologies such as 5G, IoMT, and AI move them closer to reaching their patient-first health, business, and financial goals.

For healthcare organisations that possess software-defined, digital foundations, adopting these emerging technologies as they come will be a simpler, automated, and more secure way of transforming the continuum of care, from the waiting room to the operating room, to the living room.

Get in touch here to find out more about how VMware is successfully driving emerging technologies adoption in healthcare to improve the cost, quality, and delivery of patient care.



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