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COVID-19 is driving digital transformation, here's how

Updated: Jun 30

Before this pandemic began, digital transformation had been a number one business priority for many organisations across a wide range of industries but those same organisations had yet to realise its potential. Since then, the pace of digital transformation has been significant, and in particular for healthcare. As we all began to experience COVID-19, many organisations, including ourselves, began the race to adapt and overcome the challenges of the current pandemic and that work continues today.



It is well-known that the pace of transformation in healthcare is a lot slower in comparison to other industries such as e-commerce or banking. Healthcare providers have almost always had a reluctance to fully integrate and move away from the current systems that have served them for many years, and the attitude towards innovation can be manipulated by the risks involved in fully integrating. However, as a result of lockdown measures and movement restrictions, healthcare organisations have started to realise the immediate need for change, and in particular the need to support a changing healthcare experience. As early as April, we began to see these effects as GP's across England started to incorporate virtual consultations to navigate the outbreak, with 75% of all practices using video by the third week of April giving 50,000 people access to doctors remotely. Compare that to the 10% uptake before the pandemic, it shows the acceleration towards digital health in a short space of time. Digital transformation has been the target for healthcare providers for many years and although there is evidence to show that transformation is happening, it remains as a long term target for most.

Below are some of the keys areas of healthcare that will benefit most from an accelerated pace of digital transformation as a result of COVID-19:

Patient Engagement

Patient Engagement is an area that has been and will continue to be impacted as a result of the pandemic, which has disrupted the delivery of care for numerous patients resulting in increased levels of anxiety and stress. Patient engagement was designed as a concept that combines a patient's knowledge, skill and willingness to manage his/her health and care, with specific interventions helping to increase activation and promote positive patient behaviours. As many patients have cited COVID-19 as the main reason for causing issues with their health management, it's easy to understand why patient engagement has become even more important in recent months. The Boston Medical Center (BMC) have successfully navigated this obstacle for their patients through remote patient engagement, communicating quickly to their patients whose care plans have been affected. Timely and effective automated text messages, emails and voice calls, in four languages, delivering educational and instructional messages to their 400,000+ patient population has been the key to their success.

Interoperability

Interoperability, the ability of health information systems to work together effectively within and across organisational boundaries, has been highlighted as extremely valuable in tackling not only issues with care delivery but also with the spread of the virus. It will allow the identification of infection clusters and localised disease hotspots for better public health understanding through reporting of key patient demographics (patient address + postcode). Leveraging interoperable data in this way could help public health organisations forecast areas of risk in the event of a second wave of infection and make informed decisions regarding proposed lockdown measures if required.

Digital Health Passports

To speed up our return to normality, experts have suggested that the creation of digital health passports may be the most efficient and cost-effective way forward. This solution will demonstrate immunisation and possibly immunity to the coronavirus, helping remove the requirements of social distancing and allowing for the safe return of personal healthcare interactions, gatherings at events and improved travel processes, which in theory will help speed up rebuilding our economy. COVI-PASS, designed by international digital health technology firm Circle Pass, is one of the original digital health passports that will be used as an authenticated gateway to manage safe return to work, travel and life.

As we are all aware, COVID-19 has become a serious crisis around the globe, impacting people's lives, their businesses and our relationships with each other. It is true, however, that this virus will significantly accelerate the shift to digital and benefit global healthcare operations, the likes of which we haven't seen yet. As we all joined in on celebrating our healthcare heroes, who rose to the occasion when we needed them most, it is now time for digital health providers and healthcare organisations to work together in supporting those brave men and women to continue fighting this deadly disease.

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