The Evolving Role of IT in Healthcare

Maher Elhassan, Vice President and General Manager MENA, BD

In recent years, IT has played a key role in revolutionising healthcare. With the growing population worldwide and increased financial pressures, access to affordable healthcare has become a major challenge. The higher the cost is for the healthcare provider, the higher it’ll be for patients as well, irrespective of using insurance or not. While this hasn’t reached these shores yet, insurance payout abroad are partially based on patient outcomes. The healthcare industry, for a good reason, has embraced IT to be its saviour.

At the core of IT’s work in healthcare is the wide availability of high-bandwidth internet access. What this means is expanding the circle of care within the facility and outside its gates and into the community. The Internet of things (IoT) is the corner stone of where healthcare is going, which is the digital space.

With the help of healthcare IT, healthcare providers will obtain a way to securely share information with patients and associates like family caregivers over the internet; this means patients and their families can more fully take part in decisions about their healthcare.

If we look within the healthcare facility itself, robotics and automation are playing a key role in combating inefficiencies that plague the provider’s everyday activities. Pharmacy automation means the pharmacist spends less time looking for the medication and packaging it and more time counselling the patient. Automation and interoperability along with Wi-Fi availability in wards means the nurse can spend more time caring for the patient, rather than dealing with device set up and device alarms. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) provide a platform for instantaneous and accurate medical records; this gives the best opportunity at having a holistic view of the patient’s state and subsequently providing the right care. Machine learning is seen to be a key thing for improving efficiency further; intelligent algorithms are being used to learn behaviours and trends including tracking infections and their sources within the hospital and the community.

Telemedicine is becoming one of the hottest trends in healthcare, increasing the availability of specialised care within the healthcare facility as well as providing primary healthcare within the community and beyond. Tele-ICU specifically targets the lack of intensivist availability to complete rounds for ICU patients in a timely manner; a doctor can remotely view a patient in high resolution and have access to charts to make assessments. An arm of telemedicine is the wearables revolution that’s coming, and big vendors are taking a note of this and investing billions into wearables R&D. Wearables track, store and can even transmit the individual’s vital signs live to the healthcare provider. This provides huge benefits to patients suffering from chronic diseases such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes.

Connectivity 24/7 is the future of healthcare; perhaps not all regions are ready for this; however the evidence is piling up on the benefits of connecting the devices, data sharing and doctors having visibility to their patients no matter where they are.

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