The digital tools in the future of health care

Digital health care is advancing to the benefit and convenience of patients

A phone-in consultation at Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre
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Back in 2020 when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, one of the sectors it disrupted most across the world was traditional healthcare systems. Three years later, this trend continues. It is clear that the availability of digital health must be a matter of priority for the future. A lesson learnt during the peak of the pandemic was that even though patients did not have direct access to healthcare providers, they sought quality healthcare services.

As a result, today patients want more control over their health. They look for new tools and technology that give them insights into their well-being, even apart from their usual doctor’s appointments. In turn, healthcare entities are looking to meet this need. Aided by technology, many are finding ways to adapt and optimise. Health providers all over the world strive to maintain operational efficiency by innovating and introducing new ways of delivering solutions to people's medical problems.

Access to mobile apps has improved the digital healthcare space and even personalised it. Today, the advances in telemedicine have made it possible to book an appointment, video consult with a doctor, access health records, lab reports, appointment updates, order wellness products and medicines from online pharmacies and receive those medicines at home, all through an app.

These digital solutions have enabled healthcare providers to offer timely and effective interventions to patients across the world, shredding the myth that high-quality diagnosis and treatments cannot be provided through online interactions. However, even prior to the global health crisis, digital technologies were complementing operations and services across the healthcare landscape. Be it patient care and diagnostics, virtual collaboration, remote monitoring or task automation, innovation in health care helped reshape people's well-being and showcased how patient care could be effective yet scalable.

The availability of new medical solutions and engagement with patients via such interfaces has given rise to a new face of health care. For example, telehealth broadened the scope of patient care, supplementing on-site appointments. Wearable technology prompted remote monitoring by measuring health metrics. This has, in many cases, enabled timely medical interventions. Today smart watches also serve as diagnostic tools. They can help monitor vital parameters and deliver prompts on when to administer medication.

Thanks to this digitalisation, everyday care is easily manageable in short periods of time. Whether it is the management of chronic diseases or being able to call a doctor directly or concerning the delivery of medicines, the scope of health care has broadened. However, healthtech is not limited to patient-related services. It goes beyond that, covering elements such as electronic patient records, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to identify larger health trends.

According to a report in the publication Deloitte Insights, digital health employs more than just technologies. It also views "radically interoperable data, AI, and open, secure platforms as central to the promise of more consumer-focused, prevention-oriented care." The use of technology has become integral to core operations in hospitals and clinics with the adoption of efficiency measures. A few examples of this are E-ICU models that were introduced during the peak of the pandemic and telemedicine consultations that gave wide access to medical care.

Future healthcare systems, bolstered by digital technologies, are likely to broaden the reach of patient care to one that is accessible, scalable and equitable – and promote prevention rather than cure. By instilling virtual care in the form of telehealth or shifting gears from resource-heavy clinical environments to networked settings, digitalisation will make health care easy.

As we continue to move into an increasingly digitised world, teleconsultation will become normal, widening access to care. In the decade to come, we shall witness a paradigm shift in the system not only in terms of care but also evolving digital technologies. Algorithms will give us insights into diagnostics, treatment practices and patient outcomes.

The right application of digital technology and its ease of use will bring a powerful change to health care, and for the better. Having a holistic view of a patient, where a medical provider looks at the history of a patient rather than intervening only episodically, is of utmost importance. This is where an integrated approach becomes critical in the future of health care.

While healthcare delivery and information are now available on all smart phones, true change will come from those who are seeking medical attention. Improvement in health care rests on how patients or health seekers respond to the tools and technologies available. Health truly is in our hands, literally and metaphorically.

Published: January 05, 2023, 9:00 AM
Updated: January 11, 2023, 12:06 PM