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Healthcare Tech Evolves to Meet Demand

Author: Sambit Ghosh | | October 27, 2022


 

If the COVID-19 pandemic did anything, it proved to the world the value of updated technology in the healthcare industry. COVID researchers learned critical lessons from West Africa’s 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic and used that data to pursue a coronavirus vaccine in 2020 and 2021. Evolved technology was at the heart of both medical successes, and those vaccines have saved countless lives in the years since their release.

 
However, today’s medical services providers continue to struggle with the unwieldiness of legacy technology and how that impacts both their business growth and their capacity to provide patient care. Like the vaccine researchers, they would do well to investigate modernizing their current technology infrastructure, not just to serve patients better but also to protect their business and prepare it for future medical, health, and healthcare industry opportunities.

Attempts and Efforts but Unmet Expectations

Unfortunately, today’s overarching health care industry has not been as successful in its embrace of cutting-edge technology as its epidemiology sector. Many large tech companies have tried and failed to make significant, long-lasting digital inroads into general healthcare services. While each “healthcare technology modernization” project fails for its own reasons, there are overarching circumstances that impact them all:

The complexity of the industry creates enormous barriers that impede technological advances. “Interoperability” – the ‘connectedness’ between providers, facilities, and adjunct support systems – often proves to be too complicated and short-lived for any one technology provider to master.

Healthcare data itself is hard to manage. Health data is not ‘clean’ nor ‘consistent.’ In fact, it’s frequently considered “dirty data” because of the variety of entries, the number of people entering that data, acronyms used by different agencies, and the permeation of both structured and unstructured data throughout the patient file.

In many cases, the technology provider also looks at the healthcare project as just one of many projects and does not develop a healthcare-specific digital constellation designed solely for use within that industry. Several big tech companies have tried and failed to infiltrate health care systems:

  • The interoperability challenge defeated a Google Health attempt at facilitating a personal health records service.
  • IBM was equally unsuccessful. Its “Watson” artificial intelligence and data analytics platform proved to be unprofitable in the healthcare sector and was sold after just a few years.
  • Not least, Amazon worked with notable financial agencies to apply technology to healthcare insurance systems but was compelled to disband the project when it failed to meet its goals.

 
If the challenges look daunting from the technology provider’s perspective, they are even more daunting in the greater community. As digital technologies evolve, so do the criminal activities that follow them; today’s digital environment is rife with long-standing and evolving digital threats that can damage any entity within the healthcare industry.

Records Vulnerabilities.

The chaotic state of global health records is itself a healthcare security risk. A single patient’s records may be found in dozens of medical offices, and those files will all contain references to other health care providers, private personal information, financial details, etc. Any security lapse in one of those offices results in a security breach across those patient files. Additionally, the threat of a health record breach is higher than ever as the number of ransomware attacks against hospitals and healthcare systems rises. In many instances, cyber thieves look for and target legacy health care systems with new criminal tools that easily defeat old digital security systems. At present, there is no overarching healthcare data security system that is keeping these files safe.

Device Vulnerabilities.

Another recent innovation in healthcare technology has been the explosion of connected medical devices that automatically stream patient data from the device directly to the provider’s computer. These devices measure the most sensitive aspects of patient health, from heart rate to kidney function to blood pressure and sugar levels. However, devices that have been in service for years were not designed with the security features demanded by the threats arising in today’s digital landscape. Consequently, both the patient and the provider are at risk of an attack or cyber intrusion on that legacy device. Both would suffer economic, reputational, or professional damage should that intrusion be successful.

While the threats to personal privacy, agency capacity, and health care, in general, are rising, the need for comprehensive digital oversight becomes more urgent. Obviously, if technology is going to be capable of responding to growth and innovation in the health care industry, its providers must evaluate and overcome all these hurdles if they intend their efforts to be successful.

Yet Demand Keeps Rising

In fact, there’s never been a more urgent need for a comprehensive and competent digital oversight of health care services and patient care. Innovative successes that emerged before and during the COVID crisis highlight the value of a digitally based health care practice and the promise it presents for both patients and providers.

Enhanced Patient Engagement.

The isolation of patients from their caregivers mandated by the COVID pandemic drove the explosion in online and virtual health care appointments. Around the world, medical patients “saw” their doctors through a computer portal and received the treatment they needed regardless of their location or the distance between them and the medical facility. In addition, online access to digital health records facilitated virtual access to files, healthcare advice, and information via e-mail or chat.

Enhanced Provider Capacities.

One fairly common experience for physicians is a tight time schedule that reduces their availability for face-to-face patient contact. Technology is changing that:

  • Emerging devices that provide “digital therapeutics” will monitor a patient for their specific health care concern, such as diabetes, anxiety, ADHD, asthma, etc., and stream that data into a patient portal in the doctor’s office. Artificial intelligence programming designed to report a patient’s overarching health situation will track device data and generate dashboards for physician use. Rather than reading individual test results, assistant assessments, and other medical test results, doctors need refer only to the dashboard and the data it provides to guide them through their conversations with their patients.
  • Equally significant, the emerging “Internet of Medical Things” will connect medical devices and wearable sensors to the doctor’s office and each other, forming an invisible web of data enveloping the patient that informs the physician of their ongoing health status.

 
The comprehensiveness of these healthcare-related technologies requires an equally comprehensive digital system to capture them all, make sense of them all, and protect them all.

What does healthcare modernization look like in practice? Follow the journey of a leading provider of digital healthcare services as it went from an aging on-premises system to a modernized, cloud-based .NET application platform to better support a quality patient experience and enable future business growth.

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