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Digital Transformation In Healthcare: Top 5 Trends In 2021

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By: Nihad Hassan

February 26, 2021

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has witnessed an accelerated shift towards adopting digital technologies in all work areas, and the healthcare sector was not an exception. IT role in supporting business operations has become vital in a society that is increasingly dependent on digital. Organizations in all industries are under tremendous pressure to digitalize their services to increase work efficiency and cuts operational and customer support costs. A report published by Mulesoft, which surveyed 800 global IT leaders on the state of connectivity and digital transformation, found that IT projects are projected to grow by 40% in 2020.

Applying digital transformation in healthcare organizations is considered relatively difficult compared with other business sectors. The hardest part in transforming health organizations is deciding which technologies you should adopt. For instance, emerging technologies such as AI and big data technologies will positively impact healthcare work processes.

The healthcare market size is considerably massive. For instance, the USA spending on medical services is projected to reach $5.7 trillion by 2026, making this sector very attractive for digitalization.

During this year and in the future, the following digital transformation trends are expected to affect healthcare organizations' works.

Top five digital transformation trends in healthcare

Following are the five most noticeable digital transformation trends we expect to increase in 2021.

Adoption of artificial intelligence

Using AI in the medical field is gaining attention lately. AI brings significant benefits to healthcare organizations. These benefits include:

  • Improving productivity
  • Saving operational costs
  • Improving patients' services
  • Improving patients' overall medical treatment by predicting patient's health status early.

AI boosts healthcare organizations' efficiency significantly, and there is no doubt that technologies related to healthcare and AI will have a significant positive impact. According to Accenture, investments in healthcare AI applications are expected to reach $150 billion by 2026, while the AI health market is expected to reach $6.6 billion during this year (2021) (see Figure 1).

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Figure 1 - Accenture analysis – source: https://www.accenture.com/t20171215T032059Z__w__/us-en/_acnmedia/PDF-49/Accenture-Health-Artificial-Intelligence.pdf

The AI applications in healthcare are wide and range from improving work management, diagnosing patients, supply chain management, and clinical support. The Pharma industry is also going to boost adoption to facilitate their work, especially in speeding up discovering new drugs.

Healthcare on demand

When we hear the term "on-demand," the first thing that comes to mind is setting our schedule to receive the medical service. As society increasingly turns to digital solutions, people become more mobile. For instance, mobile devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets, laptops) account for approximately half of the web traffic worldwide.

The first principle in marketing is to know where potential customers are and target them with one's services and products. Medical services providers are no exception to this rule. In the future, healthcare providers should develop digital platforms to serve their customers (Patients). According to datareportal , 4.66 billion people worldwide use the internet at the start of 2021, and 92.6 percent of them use mobile devices to go online at least some of the time. These figures clearly show how healthcare providers can adopt digital transformation to serve the largest segment of people.

Utilizing big data in healthcare

The term "big data" is relatively new but storing massive amounts of data for later analysis is very old. The proliferation of computer systems and the enormous amount of digital data generated daily encourage companies to develop technologies to analyze this data for commercial gain.

Big data helps business organizations to improve their work efficiency and customer experience and foster growth by analyzing the massive sum of industry data acquired from a variety of sources such as social media, business reports, business transactions, previous sales, customers profiles, buyers, and sellers interactions, data collected by analyzing and tracking online users browsing history in addition to data generated from automated sensors and Internet of Things devices.

In the health care sector, utilizing big data can bring different benefits:

  1. Discover wrong medicine prescriptions by comparing patients' previous health records with the prescribed medicines.
  2. Increase preventive health care by dividing patients according to their historical medical records and suggest separate health care plans according to their current health status.
  3. By utilizing big data analysis, healthcare centers can manage their staffing needs more accurately by analyzing the periods where many patients will come for treatment (e.g., by analyzing a patient's medical history), so the correct number of staff is hired based on analysis outcome.

Utilizing virtual reality to treat patients

Medical virtual reality can bring huge benefits to healthcare, such as:

  1. Help patients to reduce pain. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50 million USA adults suffered from chronic pain in 2016. Utilizing VR technologies has proven to be more efficient than drugs.
  2. Virtual reality simulators are used to train new doctors on performing complex surgeries.
  3. Virtual reality headsets are used to help children with autism see the outside world without fear.
  4. Reducing adult anxiety (e.g., pre-surgery anxiety) is another usage of virtual reality.

Growth of medical wearable devices

This could be the most apparent digital transformation in healthcare; using wearable medical devices (e.g., heart rate sensors, exercise trackers, sweet meters, oximeters) to monitor patient health – especially risky patients - will become dominant shortly. Such devices can monitor patient health conditions and update the healthcare provider about any significant health event. According to globenewswire, the global wearable medical device market size is projected to reach $89.45 billion by 2027.

Summary

Digital transformation has entered all our life aspects; its expansion to the healthcare sector becomes apparent with the increased number of digital technologies adopted to facilitate healthcare providers' work.

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