Creating a digital continuum in healthcare

Data analytics combined with mobility can generate additional revenues
Rasheed Al Omari, principal business solutions strategist- South Europe, Middle East, and Africa, VMware.
Rasheed Al Omari, principal business solutions strategist- South Europe, Middle East, and Africa, VMware.

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By Rasheed Al Omari

Data analytics, when combined with mobility, opens up new opportunities that can generate additional revenues for the different stakeholders of the ecosystem.

Healthcare providers have a responsibility to deliver an efficient and effective service to patients, from point of injury, through to diagnosis and follow up care. Yet this remains a challenge many are struggling to overcome, with ‘pain points’ in the supply chain continuing to prevent a more holistic journey for the patient.

With the increasing adoption of mobile technology across the spectrum, the industry is starting to see small incremental changes within healthcare innovation practices. According to a new report by Deloitte, the global market for digital health was worth £23bn in 2014 and is expected to almost double to £43bn by 2018.

Technological advancements such as ‘tap and go’ access to static workstations, development of smart pills and portable diagnostics are starting to be seen across the country. However, it’s the way in which the healthcare ecosystem as a whole could be revolutionised by mobile technology that will be key.

While talk of innovation is welcome, the reality is that this comes against an industry backdrop of dwindling budgets and relentless pressure to reduce costs. Those implementing new technology for patients, meanwhile, will also need to bear in mind that an ageing population and the varying adoption rates of mobility services will be further challenges to contend with. So how do organisations implement these new mobile technologies that can drive critical operations, power the core team and ultimately support patients’ wellbeing?

Taking advantage of a data hungry industry

Data analytics, when combined with mobility, opens up new opportunities for healthcare organisations. Artificial intelligence, for example, is being used to detect health patterns and predict pandemics before they occur, driving optimisation of clinical and operational effectiveness.

The rise of wearable devices provides another interesting trend. Increasingly, patients are embracing the use of mobile devices as part of their own healthcare regime; for example, using wearable fitness trackers to monitor their own heart rate, step count and sleep patterns. This data can be used for remote patient monitoring by hospital staff, as we move towards more continuous systems of patient care. Healthcare providers in the private sector should also see the benefits of capturing patient activity through wearable devices, because they can use and analyse the data to help them shape their insurance and policy costs – providing a more bespoke offering for the patient.

Capturing patient data from mobile devices can also enable doctors and clinicians to create Electronic Patients Stats and a complete 360-degree view in real time of their patient. ‘Tap and go’ access to any secure terminal helps to access patient data faster and determine what type of care is appropriate.

Healthcare apps can now capture more data than ever before – from blood test results to medication information, glucose readings, medical images – all empowering physicians to deliver a better quality of service both pre, during and post triage of patients. Better mobile solutions provide more data, which in turn gives healthcare organisations the platform to act and run more efficiently.

Meanwhile, mobile devices can enable patients to have remote video consultations, reducing the number of hospital visits to only when they are necessary. Looking ahead, augmented and mixed reality are also aspects of mobile innovation that we will start to see more frequently in hospitals, particularly those focused on teaching.

But while these innovations sound ideal, what does this look like in practice? All of them rely on data being transferred between patient, healthcare provider and the wider industry – all of which have significant security challenges to overcome.

Overcoming the challenge of security

Whilst the opportunities are there, the biggest inhibitor preventing mainstream adoption is security. As data becomes more valuable, it also becomes more vulnerable. The use of mobile devices within healthcare provides a gateway for hackers to delve into patient records, clinical environments and GP networks. Hollywood actor Charlie Sheen, last year announced that he had been blackmailed, after details of his medical condition were discovered.

To overcome the challenges this industry faces, organisations must remove security as a barrier to transform patient healthcare around the world. Here are just a few ways they can start doing this:

1. Lead by example – Whilst senior managers often understand the value mobility brings, they need to better ensure there is a secure environment in which to operate – especially in a highly-regulated sector like healthcare, where patient information is sensitive and valuable and where strict data governance must be adhered to.

2. Educate employees on mobile security – There is a need for a mandate from the CIO to ensure the correct training and processes are in place to instil a full understanding of regulatory environments. Whilst paper-based medical records can be locked away in a hospital, electronic data is often transferred between hospitals. Employees must have sufficient and regular training on mobile security, to fully understand the implications of a breach.

3. Invest in technology to lessen the risk– Healthcare organisations are already starting to invest in IT, however they need to invest in the right technology to keep up with the pace of change. Healthcare organisations must begin to move away from outdated legacy technology. Incorporating security technology, such as VMware NSX and TrustPoint, into the foundation of their infrastructures will ensure that all endpoints are protected. Cyber-attacks are on the rise and organisations must ensure they have done everything possible to lessen the risk.

There is an enormous amount of possibility with mobile innovation in healthcare. It’s about creating a secure centre of excellence to support innovation in application development and ultimately create a first class and safe experience for patients. For healthcare organisations, benefits can also come in the form of government funding.

Whilst the underlying technology will manage the risks of mobile, it will be important for healthcare organisations to realise that the starting point for this transformation is to look at the end user. They need to recognise what their pain points are and work backwards to understand how mobile can overcome them. A combination of video triage, content collaboration, wearables and mobility can improve patient care even in face of budget constraints.

Working with the correct partner such as VMware AirWatch, can provide the platform to manage the devices that capture patient data, enabling digital transformation and mobile innovation in healthcare to offer higher standards of medical care. It will be important to combine this with interdependent safety and patient experience strategies, to achieve quality outcomes for patients, deliver value for tax payers and provide excellent healthcare.

About author: Rasheed Al Omari is the principal business solutions strategist- South Europe, Middle East, and Africa at VMware.

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