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Loss of revenue, reduced margins and the need for greater efficiency: these are some of the fallout from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the healthcare sector. This has created challenges, but also opportunities, especially in the use of technology to increase efficiency and enable clinicians to provide better care.
Ryan Hodgin, CTO of IBM Global Healthcare, and Kate Huey, Partner of IBM Healthcare, discussed some of these technological innovations during their HIMSS21 digital session, “Innovation Driven Resiliency: Redefining What’s Possible”.
The technology in question may encompass telehealth, artificial intelligence, automation, blockchain, chatbots, apps, and other things that have become mainstays of healthcare during the pandemic.
“The COVID pandemic really brought us to the brink, and we were trying to move very quickly to digital transformation,” Huey said. “It revealed gaps and holes in the system, as well as inequalities in our system, and it really sparked innovation.”
In a way, she said, science fiction is becoming scientific fact: Technologies that were once in the experimental stage are now coming to life and spurring innovation, especially quantum computing. The power of quantum computing has the potential to transform healthcare just through the sheer force of its impressive computing power.
One of the main factors accelerating technological innovation is the healthcare workforce, who have been under tremendous stress over the past 18 months, with many doctors and clinicians reporting burnout or a sense of being. outmoded. These technologies promise to reduce the burden on suppliers.
Importantly, they also promise to more actively engage healthcare consumers, who increasingly expect healthcare to be as user-friendly and experience-driven as their favorite apps or healthcare portals. online purchase.
“Sixty percent of healthcare projects fail due to lack of user acceptance,” Huey said. “We are in the age of experience and digital, because to drive digital, it has to be the experience – delivering meaningful and engaging experiences that truly help consumers. And by that I mean patients, caregivers, clinicians; everybody. We have to make sure that the experience they get is seamless and easy to use, because technology has to fuel those experiences. “
At the start of the pandemic, the goal of technology was to foster resilience. According to Hodgin, the focus has been on delivering more functionality faster and real innovation – creating things like dashboards, COVID-19 trackers and risk metrics, and making them reach consumers much faster than ever before.
“It has taken the form of telehealth, chatbots, call agents, apps, and with this digital switchover we have seen a change in usage patterns, familiarity and comfort,” said Hodgin said.
Ultimately, the goal is to achieve a hybrid model of care, in which patients can access virtual and in-person channels as appropriate for their situation.
However, challenges remain, especially with the budget deficits that plague many hospitals and health systems.
“The reality is that we already had very slim operating margins in healthcare systems, and now many providers are facing budget deficits,” Huey said. “We have to look at the experiences we want to offer and see how we’re going to be more efficient. We cannot ask them to do more without giving them the necessary tools. The solutions we are putting in place must provide a better experience for them and allow them to better treat patients. “
Hodgin said that to address inequalities in care, IBM will apply what it is working on to all population groups, helping disadvantaged groups manage their care more proactively than before.
“We want the culture of innovation to really take root and not revert to the status quo,” he said.
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