Even as India grapples with the unprecedented medical crisis, the hospitals and frontline medical workers are undergoing immense physical and mental strain. From double shifts and disturbing scenes of pain and suffering, to the daily fight and often loss of life, are taking a toll on their wellbeing. The massive, nationwide vaccination drives to contain the virus, is further adding more burden on the already exhausted healthcare professionals. Under such dire circumstances, smart technology adoptions and tech-enabled tools can come to the rescue to not only help streamline operations but to also drive efficiency and reduce the burden. While digital healthcare tools have been around for a while, the pandemic in 2020 accelerated tech adoption, both for patients as well as the healthcare provider fraternity.
Telemedicine, video consultations, wearable tech for monitoring vitals and AI-powered assistants for patients needing constant care, have all become significant, as the pandemic forced the human population around the globe, into isolation. As of 2018, the digital healthcare market in India was valued at Rs 116.61 Bn and is estimated to reach Rs 485.43 Bn by 2024, growing at a CAGR of ~27.41% during the 2019-2024 period.
Needless to say, the pandemic has made it imperative to embrace tech solutions faster, to handle the crisis. While a lot of consumer health and wellness tech has also received a good response, it’s the hospital and medical institutes that have been comparatively slow in adoption. In times of crisis, listed here are 4 areas where tech adoption can help streamline operations for hospitals:
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA)/ Hospital Automation: AI-powered automation has been adopted across industries and is seen to be one of the single most disruptive factor to bring in efficiency, increase TAT, reduce dependency on human resources and drive productivity, at reduced costs. Hospital automation, or RPA is one such tech innovation that can be of immense help for managing hospitals and healthcare facilities, especially in times of such crisis. From scheduling of doctors and nursing staff, assigning beds or rooms, scheduling OR and consulting room assignments to creating and maintaining a patient treatment record, managing out patients and, especially during COVID, manage the testing and vaccination rush, automate reports and send reminders and appointments for regular patient visits. Apart from these routine operations, AI powered automation is also been used to assimilate and analyse patient and treatment related data that can be crucial to medical research, assimilate and process the best of updated international developments in oncology, surgery, the COVID pandemic and other illnesses, to ensure that the doctors and the medical staff are well informed and updated at all times.
- Blockchain to make EHR accessible: One of the most crucial aspects of healthcare technology has been the effective collection and digitisation of patient data. This has not only helped patients and doctors to maintain long-term medical records but has also contributed in research and in ease of assessing treatment plans. The next step in this direction is the use of blockchain to ensure interoperability of the Electronic Health Records (EHR), so that the data can be accessible to medical professionals outside the patients, regular geography, or hospital. The EHR, with basic details like allergies, existing illnesses, medical history and even the ongoing treatment in some cases, can be a game-changer, especially in case when a patient is in dire need of immediate medical attention. This enables medical and healthcare professionals to take informed measures and come up with the most effective treatment to patients anywhere in the world – be it as tourists, or as COVID patients who found themselves far away from home, and are seeking treatment in a new city, with doctors they have never known.
- Virtual Clinical Trials: One of the major contributions of technology in healthcare, in the form of big data and data analytics, has been in the field of pharma research. From collecting and processing data from various corners of the world to conducting virtual clinical trials, assessing drug and vaccine efficacy and working on AI and blockchain based permutation combinations to find the perfect cure, healthcare tech has been instrumental in most success stories. In the case of COVID vaccines, the speedy research and the results that were delivered within a short span of time after the 1st wave of infections in 2020, can also be attributed to effective tech adoption, among other practices.
- Advanced diagnostic technology: Accurate and timely diagnosis is the key to win a fight against any disease or illness. Over the years, diagnostic technology has seen some breakthrough innovations and set some remarkable examples of tech adoption, from ML, AI, IoT and blockchain. Laboratory automation has been one of the key features, along with automated test report generation and distribution. In times like the pandemic, tech adoption is helping laboratories effectively manage the huge load of samples, carry out accurate test procedures, and share results faster. Apart from the COVID tests, diagnostic technology can also help streamline and handle the other routine tests, in spite of the huge COVID sample load, ensuring the laboratory operations are seamless and that other patients are equally catered to, during this crisis.
Like in the case of other industries, technology adoption is a sure shot way of helping hospitals, laboratories, pharma companies and the entire healthcare frontline workers to lean on and find the support they desperately need, during these times. Needless to say, in the future, areas like personal wellness, wearable tech, diagnosis, pharma, and effective professional medical treatments, will be soon dominated by technology processes, helping the ecosystem to become smarter, efficient, and reliable.
By Sumana Iyenger, CEO and Co-founder, Goavega