Medicine has always been driven by a need to innovate and discover new treatments, drugs and procedures. This has fuelled many breakthroughs in medicine, shaping and transforming into the systems and approaches today. In keeping with that spirit, many medical personnel today see the importance of adopting digital technology in order to keep healthcare sustainable and effective.

Digital technology, particularly, is crucial in keeping healthcare effective and relevant. It also helps to make many medical processes and procedures easier – as it can be used in treatments, as well as in administration and hospital management. Therefore, it is expected of healthcare personnel to be in-the-know about the latest digital technology alongside other advances made in drugs, therapies and other forms of treatments.

Among the important breakthroughs in digital technology is the use of artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, wearable technology, next-generation computing, augmented reality, virtual reality and the internet of things (IoT).

Augmented and virtual reality (VR) technologies are now potential therapies for physical and mental treatments.
Augmented and virtual reality (VR) technologies are now potential therapies for physical and mental treatments.

Chris Penrose, senior vice president of US mobile carrier, AT&T's Internet of Things division, said that by connecting things that have not been connected before, caregivers and doctors will have the ability to better monitor patients. They can also improve overall patient life, both at home and at health care facilities.

With in-depth understanding on the functions, the possibilities are endless. For example, wearable technology can monitor a patient’s statistics and the amount of exercise done. This helps doctors to monitor their patients’ progress remotely through an app.

On the other hand, technology like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies can be used to develop physical and mental therapies to help those healing from stroke or injuries.

Digitising and digitalising are not without obstacles

The process of digitising and modernising medical approaches and systems is still a long and winding road. Although a report by Digital News Asia states that 77% of healthcare personnel surveyed are open to the use of new digital technology in every aspect of their work, issues still crop up from the lack of resources and infrastructure.

Top barriers faced by healthcare business leaders in their digital transformation journey today. Photo credit: Digital News Asia
Top barriers faced by healthcare business leaders in their digital transformation journey today. Photo credit: Digital News Asia

According to Gabe Rijpma, senior director of Health and Social Services, Asia, Microsoft, “76% of business leaders agreed that new data insights could allow healthcare providers to benefit from higher operating income. However, it is concerning to see that, while there is widespread acknowledgement on the need to transform, they are doing so incrementally.”

The first and most pressing barrier faced by healthcare industry in going digital, is the lack of support from the government, including a lack of infrastructure and policies. This is followed by uncertain economic environments, worries over cyber security, lack of leadership knowledge and urgency to counter industry disruptors.

Be an agent of digital change

Embracing the digital technology available to healthcare practitioners will be an uphill task, but is also entirely possible. The way forward, is for healthcare personnel to start using and adopting these technologies at a personal level.

One of the technologies that can be adopted by doctors is telemedicine. Through this service, doctors will be able to have remote consultations with patients who probably have trouble travelling or moving around.

On another hand, a hospital administrator should learn about big data analytics, as this helps them to understand patients’ behaviour and staff movements better.

"There is a convergence of technology that is opening up – big data, artificial intelligence (AI) – and it's allowing doctors to identify patterns in health that wouldn't have been available to intuitive practitioners," says Robert Graboyes, senior researcher at Mercatus Centre at George Mason University.

More often than not, these technological systems are easy to understand and use, with day to day tasks made easier and effortless.

“Emerging technologies, specifically, cloud, analytics and new capabilities like AI and IoT will give organisations new capabilities to transform. But real transformation only happens when they bring their people along with them. Equipping employees with the right tools to enable them to be part of a solution to be more responsive, data driven and customer centric is also key,” adds Rijpma. MIMS

Read more:
‘Webside’ manners: Telemedicine etiquette for better patient-doctor communication
Medical ultrasound innovation witnesses new entry with the latest smartphone-connected portable scanner
Rise of ethical concerns: Should doctors use apps when treating patients?