7 Ways in Which Digital is Transforming the Healthcare Industry

A lot has been said and discussed on how the healthcare industry is one of the most conservative industries when it comes to the adoption of digital solutions. Yet there is no denying the fact that the healthcare systems throughout the world have recognized the immense potential which digital health holds, and have gradually opened to investing in eHealth programs. Digital technology has in fact improved the overall longevity of the patients and brought down the overall cost of medical care.

What has made digital even more important in the health space is the fact that since the last decade, the geriatric population is on the rise. This group is highly prone to degenerative and lifestyle related health problems. Providing them assistance 24×7 is not only tough but also a rather expensive affair. And, this has again opened the doors for digital solutions. Sapna Jha, our lead analyst in the health care industry, breaks the prevalent myth that only the young population are interested in digital solutions. Rather, Jha argues that patients from almost all the age groups are receptive to digital gadgets and related solutions. For instance, close to 70% of the older population in Europe prefer using digital healthcare services. In tech savvy countries like Singapore, this percentage is even higher.

It is true that the kind of digital platforms preferred by the older generation is quite different from that preferred by the younger one. One of the best examples of this situation is how the elderly patients prefer using emails and websites, rather than social media platforms. According to Jha, the older patients use the digital medium and solutions to gain knowledge on chronic conditions, while the younger patients are more interested in prevention services.

The top seven digital solutions which are revamping the healthcare sector, as identified by our analysts are:

#1 Telemedicine

A major challenge which the policy makers in the healthcare sector have constantly been dealing with is how to reach out to the remotest of places while fighting the time barrier. In this context, telemedicine has gained a lot traction as it enables remote assessments of patients, thereby bringing down the medical cost. High penetration of internet, even in the remotest areas in the developing regions has turned telemedicine into one of the most sought after services. Telemedicine, backed with mobile technology (mHealth), has emerged as one of the strongest trends in the healthcare industry which is already seen as a major disruptor in the health industry.

#2  Medical wearables

Medical wearables are the second most influential digital solution in the healthcare sector. There was a time when for things like monitoring of blood pressure, blood sugar level, etc. one had to visit the nearby dispensary. But with the easy availability of medical wearables, patients can not only monitor their vital statistics on a regular basis but also send the updates to their physician who can advise based on the results collected.

Smart health monitors provide personalized, real-time data, which encourages healthier lifestyles and provides reams of data to feed into medical research. Medical wearables have actually placed the patients in a very important space, wherein they themselves can keep a tab on their health. This is a major shift from the traditional medical setup wherein the patient played a minimal role in his health diagnosis and resultant treatment.

#3 Genomics and gene therapy

DNA is the treasure house which has answers for several health ailments and has immense potential to influence the way in which research is conducted and enable major breakthroughs in the life sciences industry. Genomics enables highly personalized testing and treatment of the ailments, thereby improving the treatments that apply to a huge range of diseases.

Likewise, gene therapy and genetically-modified viruses are being increasingly used to fight against the Zika virus and related diseases caused by genetically-modified mosquitos. And, even though gene therapy has garnered lot of controversies, it does have some advantages which is why immense amount of research is being conducted in this area as well.

#4 Organs-on-chips

Developed to evaluate how effective a drug is, organs-on-chips technology aims to predict the response of specific organs on potential chemical hazards present in food, dietary supplements, as well as cosmetic products. It synergizes DNA sequencing with stem cell research and is connected to electronic sensors which measure response to treatment at a cellular level. Regarded as steps ahead of cell culture and animal-based tests, organs-on-chips is one of the latest digital solutions which is all set to transform the healthcare industry.

#5 3D bioprinting

This process of creating cell patterns, gained a lot of traction when in 2016, researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine announced that they have successfully implanted 3D printed bone, muscle, and tissue into animals. Through DNA analysis, it has  now become a lot easier to custom-make replaceable body parts. 3D bioprinting thus, not just provides replacements but also improves the overall functionality of the body parts.

#6 Monitoring of digital trends

Though it might sound surprising, digital trends do have the potential to help identify and respond to disease outbreaks. By keeping a track on the social media and search engines, healthcare organizations can very easily monitor diseases and come up with timely medical help. Digital trends also help organizations to gain accurate interpretation of data based on which they can hire freelancers in case of employees going on sick leave, and even keep their stock of medicines up-to-date to help employees.

#7 Social media hospital reviews

Lastly, the digital space has made it a lot easier for patients to share their opinion on the treatment received, and the kind of healthcare facilities provided in a hospital.  The social media hospital reviews shared by the patients goes a long way in helping the healthcare providers, and regulators understand the areas which need to be improved upon. Also, as digital reviews, whether good or bad, have the potential of turning viral in a very short span of time, it keeps the health providers on their toes to provide the best quality health treatment to the patients.

The digital disruption in the healthcare sector has changed the patient-doctor dynamics and led to the development of a medical fraternity which is highly committed to providing best quality healthcare services.

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