Virtual health is for real, but it needs critical infrastructure

Key to digital health care is a secure and scalable network infrastructure and next-generation technology solutions

A doctor examines X-rays on a virtual screen. Getty Images
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Human ingenuity thrives in times of chaos. But what happens after the storm dies down?

In the post-pandemic era, the healthcare industry in the region has experienced enormous changes. Some organisations are thriving in an era of unprecedented transformation and are adapting themselves to be more resilient and self-sufficient. At the same time, they are positioning themselves to compete with world-class healthcare facilities by becoming faster, more efficient and more responsive.

However, as the healthcare industry fundamentally changes the way it operates, it is clear that it needs a powerful and adaptable digital infrastructure to accommodate its metamorphosis.

The numbers corroborate this need. According to research from consultants Deloitte, information technology ranks among the top five strategic priorities for 80 per cent of healthcare providers. In addition, 68 per cent of capital spending is to be dedicated to digital technologies such as virtual health, as companies seek to develop their business models.

Many provider systems that seek diversification and attractive revenue pools are exploring new avenues such as data and analytics, digital health products and services and specialty pharmacies. The opportunities are endless and we are seeing several clear trends for the future of health care in the region.

Integrating technology into healthcare operations supports a major focus of the industry – transforming patient care

New patient self-service options, including digital health applications, online appointment booking and medicine purchase systems, as well as telemedicine consultations, have significantly increased in popularity since the Covid-19 pandemic. The added convenience these offer to patients as well as the time saved by medical professionals, which allows them to focus on urgent cases or other areas for growth, are among the major benefits resulting from the influx of digital health solutions in the region.

These developments are also driving faster growth and, according to McKinsey and Company research from last year, the digital health market could reach $4 billion by 2026 within the UAE and Saudi Arabia alone.

The opportunity here lies in thinking of health care more holistically – providing patients with access to digital resources for care across the spectrum, including mental health, preventive measures and condition management. This will need a highly inter-connected network that can be utilised throughout the healthcare chain that is flexible enough to grow alongside patient needs and be used across different devices and touchpoints.

Healthcare organisations will need a network infrastructure that supports secure, remote access for patients trying to use resources at home and on campus, without losing any quality of experience.

On the operational side of things, digital technologies are automating and optimising major functions. We are seeing the application of new solutions for payment cycles, tracking and revenue management across supply chains for medicines and health products. These solutions also align perfectly with organisational goals to go paperless, and to reduce the time and money spent on non-critical business functions.

We predict that further advancements will be made by using advanced analytics and next-generation cloud capabilities. Cloud-driven network management solutions support pro-active maintenance of the network and can help provide insights related to health supply delivery, locating medical equipment, pharmacy customer lines, patient waiting times and other business outcomes.

Integrating technology into healthcare operations supports a major focus of the industry – transforming patient care.

In recent years, traditional healthcare providers have refocused their efforts to put personalised patient experiences at the heart of their operations, using technology to help accomplish the goal of continuous improvement. For example, Nahdi Pharmacies in Saudi Arabia is investing in a secure, interconnected system to enable digitised prescriptions and purchase records as well as patient data profiles that are intended to result in tailored retail experiences.

Similarly, Zulekha Hospital in Dubai has elevated patient care through the faster and more secure transmission of digitised medical records through interconnected and segmented wireless and wired infrastructure. Doctors and patients can instantly and securely access digital prescriptions, medical information, reports and other critical information that previously took days or weeks to physically send between healthcare providers.

We are on the cusp of making the impossible possible in health care. Telesurgeries, AI-derived diagnostics, and even robots performing medical procedures are all areas that are actively being worked on and could soon become the reality of tomorrow’s healthcare industry. It is imperative for everyone in health care to understand where technology will take us, assess their readiness for that future, and build up the necessary infrastructure to be part of it.

High investment levels and the sheer volume of healthcare projects promise exciting developments for the industry in the region. However, it will take highly secure, scalable network infrastructure and next-generation technology solutions to deliver on the undeniable promise of growth and change the sector is aiming for.

Published: October 06, 2023, 7:00 AM