Digital transformation in healthcare services is accelerated by COVID-19

The fast-paced adoption of digital technologies is emerging as a key element of remodeling healthcare delivery and scaling up systems. While the risk-averse culture, legacy systems, regulation and compliance challenges are hindering the uptake of emerging technologies in healthcare services, COVID-19 may be the trigger that will accelerate digitalization in the sector, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Urte Jakimaviciute, MSc, Senior Director of Market Research, GlobalData, commented: “Even though emerging technologies such as telemedicine have existed for decades, most healthcare systems heavily rely on in-person interactions between patients and clinicians to carry out consultations, monitoring and health-related checks. Nevertheless, the requirement of social distancing is swiftly pushing primary care provision towards remote options. Aside from video calls, these services include text, email and utilization of purpose-built mobile apps. The rapid implementation of these technologies into the clinical setting showcases how quickly the sector can move towards digitalization if there is a coordinated and consistent approach.”

While the uptake of remote patient monitoring and virtual medicine surges, healthcare IT infrastructure is being put to a tough test. Accelerated digitalization is revealing gaps in infrastructure, workforce and digital education that ultimately need to be bridged.

Jakimaviciute continues: “Telemedicine and virtual care may prompt the greater uptake of technologies such as wearables and digital therapeutics. However, any data sets obtained from these technologies require adequate processing and secure storage solutions. Therefore, investing in a digitally trained workforce and technologies such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, blockchain, big data and artificial intelligence (AI) becomes a must. The ability to invest and align infrastructure and resources will play a pivotal role in facilitating the speed and extent of digital transformation in the healthcare landscape.”

Many healthcare systems around the world have already been experiencing increasing costs and capacity pressures while at the same time having to deal with increased numbers of patients due to aging populations and the rise of chronic diseases. Dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak on top of this is stretching the healthcare services to a breaking point.

Jakimaviciute adds: “An imperative to operate with constrained resources and budgets, especially for public-funded healthcare systems, is an ongoing challenge for many healthcare service providers around the world. Due to limited funding available, updating aging infrastructure and legacy technologies was outside their priority lists. Nevertheless, COVID-19 presents quite a different scenario.

“Healthcare systems are forced to digitalize to be able to provide the services that otherwise would be interrupted because of the outbreak. While patients and clinicians are adapting to the ‘new normal’ presented by this enforced technological uptake, the hope is that once the COVID-19 crisis is gone, the digital transformation continues. Even though it is an expense, in the long run digital transformation can provide significant cost savings, improved agility, and process efficiency that healthcare services need.”

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