Imagine a world where people spend less time travelling to medical appointments because they can get check-ups and consultations at home; every patient has a single 360-degree medical record continuously updated by care teams, devices, and self-reporting; highly visual, personalised dashboards streamline physician workflow and help analyse patient data in real-time; the costs and complications of chronic disease will drop as remote patient monitoring and virtual coaching become routine practice.
Welcome to the world of Connected Health, where smarter, faster, more accurate interactions between people, devices, data, analytics, and applications are transforming the way healthcare is delivered. A convergence of challenges and enabling technologies are bringing change across the care spectrum—and the pace of change is accelerating.
More simply, we define Connected Health as connecting doctors to data, connecting patients to healthcare providers, and connecting practices to networks—all with the objective of delivering better, more integrated care and health outcomes-. So, as the sector becomes more inter-connected, a web of intelligent communication and actionable information sharing with the intention of improving patient outcomes is transforming the way healthcare is delivered.
Enter the internet of things in healthcare. While Connected Health builds on decades of healthcare-specific experience with mobile health (mHealth) and telehealth solutions, it is propelled by a rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT) that connects intelligent sensors, devices, software and networks across the Internet.
What is the potential impact?
According to a report from MarketResearch.com, the Internet of Things in Healthcare is expected to reach $117 billion by 2020, while the mobile health segment continues to reshape care delivery, with an estimated growth of $59.15 billion by 2020. Sceptics might doubt that the healthcare industry, noted for its slow adoption of information technology, will undergo dramatic change quickly, however, powerful drivers and enablers are converging in ways that signal that a tipping point is indeed on the horizon.
Healthcare is a priority in most national government agendas: The GCC healthcare market is projected to grow at a 12.1 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from an estimated $40.3 billion in 2015 to $71.3 billion in 2020 and is poised to cross $100 billion mark by 2023. There is an increasing consensus in governments, about the urgency of moving the needle on seemingly intractable healthcare challenges of access, quality, and cost.
Ageing populations, chronic disease: Two compelling drivers are ageing populations and the high incidence of chronic disease, which consume a disproportionate amount of health resources.
In the UAE, the country’s Vision 2021 national agenda aims to achieve a world-class healthcare system to help tackle and prevent lifestyle illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes that are prevalent in the region. According to the International Diabetes Federation, Saudi Arabia and the UAE ranked 10th and 12th respectively in the prevalence of diabetes globally in 2018. As such, it has become more important to track disease trends and monitor chronic patients’ adherence to treatment schedules and recovery progress.
How can organisations get ready for connected health?
So, what are some of the technology challenges that face healthcare providers today? And what do they need to address to become leaders in this digital era?
Too much data, too little insight: As healthcare becomes more interconnected with the increasing adoption of telehealth, mHealth, and enabling technologies from IoT to digital sensors, familiar data challenges must be addressed to realise the full promise of Connected Health. Being able to get patient data from all healthcare services to the right people at the right time remains a challenge. Today with Edge and IoT devices, health leaders are identifying opportunities to derive actionable insights. When analysed using Big Data analytics, these individual points reveal unexpected trends, patterns and insights to improve care delivery and outcomes.
Lack of integration and interoperability: The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) defines interoperability as “the extent to which systems and devices can exchange data and interpret that shared data. For two systems to be compatible, they must be able to exchange data and subsequently present. The lack of interoperability between devices and systems exists either because these remain closed systems and/or because they contain non-standardised data. New technology vendors entering the healthcare space continue to build closed IoT devices, making it difficult to share data generated from these devices.
Security first, last and always: Cybersecurity tools and privacy protections must be incorporated when building digital infrastructure. The security architecture must encompass data governance and security requirements across users, applications and devices, looking at how authentication and validation will be managed. They can guide health organisations in designing and deploying a multi-faceted security approach with identity management, access management, encryption, proactive security analytics and network security.
A new world of tech: Human-machine partnerships are reshaping how we share medical information, treat disease and discover new therapies more precisely. Dell Technologies recently partnered with Vanson Bourne to survey healthcare business leaders and found a divided vision of the future, but agreement on the need to transform and how to get there. 60 percent of healthcare business leaders report their organisations struggle to keep up. But all of them agreed on the need to transform and are optimistic they can provide essential infrastructure to achieve their digital business goals within the next five years. The data is hugely positive and indicates that the industry is poised to leap ahead as 89 percent of organisations expect to complete their transition to a software-defined business with 80 percent using artificial intelligence (AI) to pre-empt patient demands.
To conclude, the healthcare market is poised to leapfrog, but there is a critical step that must occur before digital transformation can be completely realised. Achieving true transformation requires healthcare organisations to cross the digital divide: the gap between connecting IT transformation (modernising the infrastructure) with business transformation (being efficient at analysing and digitising operations). It’s therefore important that healthcare organisations select the right technology partners to create a Connected Health ecosystem and advance in the digital era, transforming the way they work so that they can, in turn, transform the lives of people.
Andrew is healthcare industry director – MERAT, Dell Technologies