Оn the 9th of December, an online webinar from the Topics of Scale series took place with special guest lector Charles Lowe - Managing Director of the Digital Health & Care Alliance (DHACA) and a Past President of the Royal Society of Medicine's Telemedicine and eHealth Section. Charles joined the Scalefocus specialists Aleks Bozhinov and Svetlin Panov to discuss how the digitization of the health sector is becoming the much-needed revolution after the COVID-19 crisis.
Changes After COVID-19
The IT sector and the health sector are becoming irrevocably intertwined and that is becoming the reality more and more. Charles Lowe shared that in the UK the immediate response to COVID-19 (as in most of the world) was for the GP appointments to be halted and introduce something called total triage. “Record sharing became reality right away”, said Charles and explained that people who used to want appointments now wanted to have their health issues and questions handled remotely as professionally as possible.
Most interactions became digital even for the elder people and it actually brought benefits for patients and doctors alike. Patient satisfaction was raised, and there was a huge reduction in GP stress. “Since lockdown began, 99% of medical appointments have shifted remotely compared to a mere 1% of 340 million annual appointments before COVID-19.”
According to Charles, online medical services such as remote testing, remote condition management, and online pharmacies are blossoming right now and it has been that way since March 2020. There are, however, he says, outstanding challenges.
Record sharing and data governance are considered extremely important right now and must be handled with complete care and professionalism.
Implementation of current innovation is happening too slowly and the necessary technologies involve a lot of interactions, inventions, and investment. But, in Charles’ opinion primary and secondary care will be changed forever and there will be a huge boost for online services, in many cases now past “critical mass” and connectivity, data governance will come under the spotlight - and stay there for a long time.
Digital Revolution In the Health Sector
Aleks Bozhinov, а Digital Transformation Strategist at Scalefocus and the second speaker in the webinar started with some facts about the digital health waves - the digitization that slowly but surely starts happening since the 19th century. “Healthcare innovation is driven by personalized medicine”, shared Aleks, and explained that innovation strategies are the ones that get the most budget - DNA and electronic health data analysis, nano/stem medicine, and the usage of AI, blockchain, and digital technology.
The interconnectivity of all devices is important for this revolution to happen. Optimization has to do with introducing healthcare analytics platforms, usage of IoT, and machine learning.
Predictive services are also an important factor for high-performance organizations, to be able to stay high-tuned and act before things happen, preventatively.
Аnd the time for that is now. In the last ten years, we’ve seen tech giants (like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon, etc) jump into the field and investing billions of dollars in data management, wellness, mobile health, and analytics. You can see more examples of such long-term investments in the video.
But what are the biggest threat and challenges? In the first place, of course, private information leaks don’t exactly create trust in organizations.
“The adoption of blockchain technology can save the healthcare industry up to 100-150 billion per year by 2025. Data breaches cost healthcare $6.5 million on average, which is 60% more than any other sector.”
Challenges & Solutions To Embracing Digital Health
Svetlin Panov, a Blockchain Practice Lead at Scalefocus, еxplained some of the most often encountered challenges for digitization in healthcare. First is integration and the fact that blockchain as a solution has to be thought out and implemented with utmost care. Another mentioned challenge is data storage - blockchain is not intended for large data storage; data access can also be challenging because it can be tricky to access the bulk of data from external storage behind closed firewalls.
But to every challenge, there is a solution and every business can mitigate the problem of data storage by using diverse solutions. First mentioned by Svetlin is blockchain consortium - a federated network, and an infrastructure that provides ledger and smart contract service to applications. “It allows organizations to collaborate shared data in a network and it’s operated by smart contracts generating transactions and distributed by every participant.“ Моre examples for the benefits of this solution Svetlin gives in the recording.
With permission blockchain, every operation is trackable and auditable.
Multiple organizations must agree to the parameters of a chain code, there is a big amount of development languages, and they are also flexible in making very complex business models. Onboarding new participant organization can be streamlined audit-ability is embedded by design.
Another solution Svetlin talked about is exposed blockchain network services in а permissioned network. With it, a single organization can own the blockchain network, it is still a technical infrastructure that provides ledger and smart contract services to participating organizations and smart contracts are used to generate transactions that are subsequently distributed to every peer in the network so everybody plays the same rules.
Benefits of blockchain service include the existence of a collaboration platform that uses the same digital identity, cryptography, service cost, compared to owning your own blockchain network data and ledger sharing.
You have the option of a consent management platform that allows the users to track and give consent for certain actions in different applications/platforms. This type of technical infrastructure can hold your legal documents and provide them to applications. It also tremendously decreases the time for legal actions and agreements.
Аll the advice and shared knowledge about how the healthcare business can get more revenue by investing in digitization can be found in the video.
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