Digital Transformation in Healthcare: Benefits vs. Challenges

Howard Schulman

What is Digital Transformation in Healthcare?

Healthcare is a large and fast-growing industry, with health spending in the USA projected to grow to $5.7 trillion in the next few years.

It is clear that digital services will play a crucial role in this growth, and that healthcare organizations that adapt to digital trends will have a competitive advantage. There is also massive growth in healthcare industry employment, and many of these new roles are likely to be technology-related.

However, research shows that digital transformation in healthcare is not moving at the same pace as in other industries. The main obstacle is not technological. It is a combination of the unique requirements of healthcare, with high sensitivity and impact of the service on customer’s lives, and culture in healthcare organizations, which often impedes technological change.

By overcoming these obstacles, healthcare organizations will derive the following benefits from digital transformation:

  • New modes of healthcare service delivery, such as telemedicine
  • Improved efficiency of existing operations in healthcare facilities
  • Improved collaboration between healthcare practitioners
  • Improved patient monitoring and communication using wearables and mobile apps
  • Improved use of data to personalize healthcare services, improve treatment and generate predictions for preventative medicine

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In this article, you will learn:

How Digital Transformation Technology Will Change the Healthcare Industry

Here are a few important trends driving digital transformation in healthcare organizations.

Healthcare Delivery Infrastructure

The healthcare delivery model is no longer limited to physical clinics and hospitals. Technology is making it possible for medical practitioners to cooperate remotely—for example, remote physicians can guide others during surgery. Additionally, physicians can remotely examine and treat patients—many hospitals provide remote patient counseling and video-based treatment services. According to the American Hospital Association, 76% of hospitals have computer telemedicine systems.

Data Analysis

Healthcare organizations collect massive amounts of data, and are leveraging big data, artificial intelligence and internet of things (IoT) technology to make better use of it. The benefits of improved data collection and analysis are endless, including improved diagnosis and treatment, disease prevention, and personalization of health services for individual patients.

Here is how healthcare organizations are leveraging technology to improve data analysis:

  • Cloud—cloud systems enable data sharing, easier search and retrieval, and interoperability between medical systems, IoT devices and applications.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)—can be used to analyze medical images and EHR data for diagnosis, replacing human specialists in many areas, and can process large datasets to provide trends and predictions.
  • Big data analytics—used to monitor public health records, social media and other data sources to identify insights relevant for healthcare organizations, such as reports of disease outbreaks, complaints and review of healthcare services.

APIs and Interoperability

Safe and effective data exchange is essential for digitizing medical care. Application programming interfaces (APIs) must ensure correct data exchange between electronic health record (EHR) systems, medical devices and other integrated services. This can ultimately lead to a more accurate and timely diagnosis and treatment.

APIs must be designed with security in mind. The more organizations invest in secure, compliant integrations between systems, the better positioned they will be to provide advanced digital services.

Integrated Wearable Technology

Wearable devices have been widely adopted by consumers, and technology has advanced far beyond fitness tracking. Wearable devices are now securely integrated with EHR, enabling remote monitoring of patient metrics and prevention of health hazards. Devices will provide richer, more valuable metrics, and will have predictive capabilities, allowing physicians to identify and treat health problems early on.

Digital Transformation Challenges in Healthcare

Digital transformation in healthcare has tremendous potential, but also faces significant challenges. Here are important challenges that are making it difficult for the healthcare industry to digitize its services.

Data Management

Data processing and analysis is a major challenge in healthcare. Part of the problem is the large amount of data collected by hospitals, clinics and healthcare professionals. Without an AI system capable of analyzing this data, it is difficult for organizations to provide better personalized care.

Data collection and synchronization is another important challenge. Telemedicine makes it difficult for medical professionals to update patient health records, while working from different locations on different systems. There needs to be a way to record and update health records of both face-to-face and virtual visits, from multiple devices.

Cybersecurity

Addressing the risk of cyberattacks is one of the most important tasks for healthcare organizations. According to multiple security research reports, healthcare is one of the top industries targeted by cybercriminals. Risks are growing, due to the large number of internet of medical things (IoMT) connected devices, the volume and availability of medical and patient data, and the complexity of patient care delivery models.

Another factor is cloud security challenges, with healthcare organizations increasingly storing data in the cloud to promote collaboration and data sharing.

The healthcare security perimeter has a much larger attack surface, spanning multiple organizations, IoMT devices, cloud systems, and traditional medical equipment. In addition, despite increased security oversight and investments, many organizations have lacking security measures. Most hospitals maintain thousands of medical devices that do not have appropriate security measures. While organizations are committed to digital transformation, risk management practices don’t always keep up.

Data Privacy

As the healthcare industry moves to collaborative healthcare, there is a much greater risk of exposing patient data. Collaborative medicine is a delivery model that makes patient data available across complex medical environments, making it accessible to many users across multiple devices and locations.

Medical professionals and biomedical researchers also access data to improve medical decision-making and patient care, including the use of artificial intelligence for health monitoring and diagnosis. Without proper data privacy controls, the risk of personal data loss and compromised patient care will increase significantly.

In addition, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) places new requirements on how organizations collect, use and protect personal data. The GDPR carries fines of up to 20 million Euro or 4% of a company’s annual sales. Healthcare organizations must evaluate their data privacy practices in light of GDPR, as well as other applicable compliance standards.

Digital Transformation in Healthcare with Lightico

Lightico allows healthcare companies to facilitate more efficient and customer-centric transactions. Both healthcare employees and the patients they serve benefit from streamlined, frictionless, and personalized workflows.

Lightico’s digital capabilities, including automatic ID verification, eForms, eSignatures, digital payments, and more empower healthcare workers to serve customers better than ever. To learn more about Lightico’s secure and compliant digital solution, visit Lightico.com.

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