How easy is it to not go to the hospital and still get diagnosed? The older generation would call it impossible unless the doctors themselves land at your place. But for the current millennial generation, it is just another technological advancement. Bringing digital transformation in the healthcare sector has always been a tedious task and thus a slow process considering its significance in society and resistance towards disruptive technologies like AI. Although, the Covid-19 scenario accelerated the transformation to equip the healthcare sector to fight the pandemic. Developments like ‘Telemedicine’ have enhanced the accessibility of healthcare services among people.
As he spoke to the Economic Times Healthworld editor, Dr. Azad Moopen, Founder Chairman and Managing Director of Aster DM Healthcare, Dubai revealed, “The anxiety of the patients to come to the medicare facilities, by and large, led to the digital transformation in healthcare, which seems the approach and will be present in the post-Covid world.” The digital makeover in the healthcare industry is here to stay beyond the pandemic.
A Blessing in Disguise
The Covid-19 pandemic brought uncertainty to the health sector with an unknown virus and spiking cases within a short span. The frontline warriors fought the pandemic with commitment and strength. Even though it is a tough time, industrially the healthcare sector improved by embracing digital developments and the pandemic paved the way for it. There were some noticeable disruptions in the sector like,
- Telemedicine/Telehealth: According to a PWC survey in early 2020, about 16.5 million Americans started using telehealth during the first couple of months. Telehealth services are accessible and convenient to all the patients. Telehealth uses insights from accurate sensing devices for remote diagnosis and treatment. AI-based chatbots and voice assistants have also benefited in remote diagnosis by providing a hospital-like experience to the patients. Integrating electronic health records and wearables to monitor the health status of patients has boosted the success rate of telemedicine.
- Automation of Health Services: As mentioned above, chatbots and voice assistants automated the interaction with patients by answering their queries while other staff can focus on high-priority tasks. An article in HealthTech talks about Sutter Health, a California-based nonprofit health system that provides a comprehensive online symptom checker for patients, which includes Covid-19 screening questions. Chatbots like these can enhance the patient-physician interaction with minimal labour and maximum convenience.
- AI-Driven Healthcare: Artificial intelligence has a pivotal role to play in the digitization of health services. During the pandemic, AI was used in vaccine development and other strategies like contact tracing. AI contributes abundantly towards health diagnosis and treatment. Healthcare providers are widely employing precision medicine to give personalized healthcare in a faster and accurate way. CT scan and X-ray analysis, contactless thermal screening, portable diagnostic devices are some other significant additions by AI.
Looking Past the Pandemic
Digital tools like AI, machine learning, data analytics, and robots have redefined the healthcare sector in the best way possible. The pandemic introduced us to a ‘New Normal’ phase that might extend and become the norm. A digital transformation like telemedicine will not go into hibernation since it is considered the most convenient way to get medical treatment. It can benefit patients with chronic health conditions like cancer to get diagnosed from their comfort space without taking rounds of the hospital.
AI-based healthcare systems and diagnostic devices will enhance the efficiency of healthcare services with minimum costs and labour. For example, a breast health screening device launched by Niramai helps in detecting breast cancer by providing at-home screening with no contact and maximum privacy. The handheld ultrasound scanners developed by Clarious is another example of AI-driven diagnostic care.
These technological advancements shaped by the pandemic will continue to serve the purpose of providing safe and improved healthcare services. The healthcare industry leveraged its crucial time of struggle to develop efficient systems that can combat future medical uncertainties.