What is Digital Healthcare: Definition, Future, Benefits, Products
On the 74th Independence Day, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) from the Red Fort. This announcement brought attention to digital healthcare. While NDHM is a voluntary government health initiative that connects various stakeholders to digital infrastructure, digital healthcare technologies offer significant value to the healthcare industry.
Understanding Digital Healthcare
Digital healthcare utilizes a variety of digital technologies to provide quality medical services that are accessible, affordable, and sustainable. Many digital technologies have applications in the healthcare industry, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS), cloud/edge computing, internet-of-things (IoT), artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), Big Data, 3D printing, robotics, assistive technologies, and immersive technologies such as virtual/augmented realities (VR/AR).
Digital Health Technologies
Digital technologies are utilized to create cyber-physical, digital, or phygital applications for the healthcare sector. These solutions assist healthcare providers in achieving specific objectives. Some common digital healthcare solutions include:
Effective healthcare services rely on the ability of healthcare providers to deliver quality treatment seamlessly. Hospitals have various systems, workflows, and processes to manage, including administrative, operational, compliance, and treatment functions. Streamlining these can be a major challenge for any hospital.
“Software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions can address many of these challenges. They operate on a subscription-based model, where hospital management software is licensed to healthcare providers. SaaS solutions use cloud technologies, AI, and other digital technologies to integrate various processes and systems. They are easy to install and use and make running a hospital more efficient, effective, and smart. As they are externally managed, they are cost-effective, secure, and scalable.
Telemedicine and Telehealth technologies
Telemedicine uses telecommunication and electronic information technologies to provide clinical services to patients in remote areas. For example, a doctor can access a remote patient’s health reports and information, and the patient and doctor can communicate through audio-visual channels. The doctor can then send the patient a prescription in near real-time
Telehealth encompasses telemedicine and additional non-clinical services. In addition to telecommunication technologies, it also utilizes other digital technologies to provide clinical services, educate patients and professionals, and assist in public health administration.
Mobile health (m-Health) and wearable technologies
These applications aid in the sharing of health information via mobile technologies and wearable devices. m-Health technologies utilize mobile apps and wearable devices such as smartwatches and fitness bands to track and monitor various health metrics such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, sleep quality, and more.
Electronic medical and health records (EMR/EHR)
Our medical history provides insight into our health and can assist doctors in making accurate diagnoses and treatment plans. However, many individuals may not have complete historical medical records. Digital technologies allow for every patient’s electronic medical records (EMR) or electronic health records (EHR) to be stored in a centralized repository, accessible to patients or authorized doctors from any location in India at any time. This empowers hospitals and doctors to make more informed decisions about patients. From a policy-making perspective, it also provides the government with a national and regional understanding of the prevalence and incidence of diseases, helping to inform the development of better public health policies.
This is the next frontier of healthcare delivery. Using advanced digital technologies, it is increasingly becoming possible to devise a customized treatment regimen that is unique to an individual patient. An emerging field, personalized medicine uses the individual genetic profile to devise a treatment regimen, and digital technologies are playing a major role in the evolution of this field.
Benefits of Digital Healthcare
Digital healthcare is becoming increasingly popular among healthcare providers. Globally, healthcare leaders and hospital administrators are rapidly adopting digital healthcare solutions. The following are some of the advantages of digital healthcare that have made digitalization a necessity for the global healthcare industry
🔳Digital healthcare solutions can be easily adopted, implemented, and adjusted to meet the needs of healthcare providers.
🔳The solutions improve the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery operations and systems.
🔳They improve the quality of treatment and healthcare services
🔳They increase the reach and accessibility of medical care services to remote areas.
🔳Digital technologies make healthcare more accessible and affordable to people across socioeconomic backgrounds.
🔳Digital healthcare delivery becomes more agile, resilient, and adaptable to uncertainties.
🔳They improve the sustainability and viability of hospitals and healthcare models.
🔳They aid in the development of public health policy at the regional and national levels.
Challenges of Using Digital Healthcare
Despite its benefits, digital healthcare also has its own set of challenges. These issues can cause reluctance among healthcare service providers and prevent them from digitizing their systems.
🔳Resistance to change: As humans, we often become comfortable with established systems and patterns that we have grown accustomed to. The introduction of new technologies and processes can disrupt these systems, leading to a natural reluctance to adopt digital technologies.
🔳Limited digital expertise: Many healthcare workers and individuals in India have limited knowledge and experience with digital technologies. This results in additional time, cost, and effort required to train and educate the workforce on how to effectively use digital health care solutions. Additionally, educating the general population about digital technologies is important for them to access and engage
🔳Cost of transition: The process of transitioning to digital health care solutions can be costly, particularly for hospitals that wish to develop their own digital solutions. While digital technologies are cost-effective in the long run, the initial cost can be significant. However, innovative models such as subscription and pay-per-use formats are making the switch to digital for more economically viable.
🔳Data quality and security: Digital systems can be complex and vulnerable to cyber threats. Healthcare providers may need more than just assurances to trust the security of a system they are considering adopting. They also need to be confident that the data generated is accurate and of high quality.
🔳Government policies: The speed at which technology evolves often outpaces the development of government policies. Uncertainty surrounding government policies on digital healthcare solutions can impact their acceptance.
Conclusion: Digital Healthcare Is the Future
Despite the challenges, the benefits of digital healthcare solutions outweigh the issues faced during their adoption. As the sector continues to develop, these challenges will be addressed and resolved, making digital healthcare a fundamental aspect of the healthcare industry. Adopting digital healthcare solutions is becoming increasingly feasible, and healthcare providers worldwide are making the transition. The question is, when will you make the switch?