Covid-19: Challenges even the most well-developed healthcare systems are striving to overcome

September 12, 2020 6:30 AM

Connected health technologies could push healthcare organisations to deliver essential and innovative solutions faster

A digital health hub that delivers better practitioner experience will undoubtedly generate better and more useful data.A digital health hub that delivers better practitioner experience will undoubtedly generate better and more useful data.

By Venky Ananth

The world that was already in the throes of the steepest economic downturn has been hit hard by Covid-19. While every industry has felt the impact of the pandemic through losing incomes, disrupted global supply chains, and reduced demands, healthcare remains at the epicentre of this unprecedented situation. So, how can healthcare march into the post-pandemic era?

Treading the unchartered territory
With looming uncertainties over Covid-19, there are two possible outcomes at this stage—a prolonged contagion resulting in a global recession or a successful containment or cure that leads to quick recovery of patient and economic health. However, there are longstanding challenges that even the most well-developed healthcare systems in the world are striving to overcome:

Limited resources & staff shortage: The pressure on ‘already limited’ resources could lead to personal protective equipment (PPE) demand surpassing its supply. This could put frontline medical staff at risk, which means growing fear around a shortage of medical professionals.

Payment models: Ensuring non-erroneous billing void of technical glitches is paramount. Complex collection strategies and cost-sharing arrangements simply add to the woes during these pressing times. Allocating resources effectively is important to ensure as it directly impacts patient outcomes.

Monitoring and tracking: The overwhelming number of patients can make tracking and monitoring a tedious task for healthcare providers while also protecting the staff.

Evolving regulatory compliance: There have been rapidly evolving regulatory mandates, but providing timely policy information and guidance to all is not feasible.

Increased operations: Insurers have been facing a sharp increase in inquiries about policies, and managing the call centre volume is getting difficult with staff shortage and a sudden shift to remote work practices.

Towards a multitude of opportunities
Covid-19 has in some ways, opened Pandora’s Box for the healthcare industry, emphasising on how digital transformation has been long overdue. This has induced vigorous proactive actions to drive innovation in the healthcare sector. For instance, telemedicine services witnessed a spike in demand owing to investments from government bodies and VCs during the shift to digital.

The recent push to digitally-enabled tools for diagnosis and treatment can create a “digital front door” to enable consumer engagement at every touchpoint. There can be real-time dashboards and digital solutions for patient monitoring, staff rostering, locating equipment, etc.

These digital platforms can flag and prioritise critical cases and serve as powerful communication tools for updates on guidelines and policy changes.
Complementing this development, the markets are already inundated with healthcare wearables and apps from start-ups and established tech players like Apple and Google.

Population health management has finally made progress amid the pandemic in line with one of the key goals of digitisation–improving population health cost-effectively with comprehensive patient population profile and real-time insights. A digital health hub that delivers better practitioner experience will undoubtedly generate better and more useful data.

Unlocking digital in healthcare
Agility, reliability, and scalability of operations are the need of the hour. But, achieving this requires the healthcare industry to reimagine the future of work and delivery care while embracing future-proof technologies.

Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), deep learning (DL), and robotic process automation (RPA) can synthesise qualitative information from the bulk of data generated by the healthcare sector.

This could be the key to unlocking new avenues in healthcare. AI and advanced analytics can leverage this data for patient-centric outcomes by drawing actionable insights—from detecting outbreaks and build predictive models to boosting personalised value-based care.

As the need for exchanging health data has become imperative, broadening the scope of interoperability, we need a centralised platform accessible by all stakeholders for a seamless and secure data exchange.

The way forward
Change is the only constant, and adapting to it is the way forward. Building resilience throughout the enterprise is the key to thriving in the post-Covid world.

As businesses restore in a phased manner, digital services take precedence to cope with an increase in consent management, growing demand to enable digital tracking and tracing. The IT teams must begin addressing the demand in analytics and revenue cycle management practices. In a short span, this could boost connected health technologies and push healthcare organisations to deliver essential and innovative solutions faster.

The author is Senior VP & global head of healthcare, Infosys. Views are personal

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