Digitisation is key to enhancing healthcare services in the new normal world. While it is important to increase healthcare spending, digitisation is crucial to ensure primary healthcare services reach people even in the most remote corners of the world.

As we step into 2022, we hope digitalisation can enable healthcare services to be provided in a cost-effective way. As a blessing in disguise, Covid-19 has played the role of a catalyst in pushing the sector to innovate and come up with need-of-the-hour solutions.

As per the World Health Organisation, almost half of the world lacks access to essential health services and over 100 million are pushed into poverty due to out-of-pocket health expenses. This stark reality was brought to the forefront during the pandemic with public healthcare systems across the world failing to manage and cater to increasing demands. More than ever, the need to make quality healthcare affordable and accessible on time has been felt strongly.

We anticipate the following trends to gain momentum and define the future of healthcare.

Services through Omni Channel

With patients increasingly wanting to access healthcare services from the comfort of their homes or work, many hospitals and healthcare providers have pivoted to the implementation of digitised, virtual solutions to strengthen logistics and serve customers remotely. This model of care enables provider communities to reach wider customer base beyond geographical boundaries. This Omni Channel ensures delivery of cost-effective care like consultation, investigation, delivery of medicines and home care, without adding expensive physical infrastructure.

Telemedicine, remote monitoring

Services like telehealth, remote monitoring, E-ICU care, teleradiology, tele-pathology will see many countries come to the forefront and adopt outsourcing at low cost with better qualitative and quantitative efficiency. The UAE can emerge as the clinical excellence hub for patients from Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent which is serving more than one billion population. Visits to hospitals can be reduced to major medical problems and follow-up can be carried out remotely.

The pandemic proved to be a huge impetus as clinicians and patients both realised that through the use of technology they can easily reach and engage with each other while remaining safe. We saw a sharp uptick in the demand for telemedicine services which enabled us to onboard 800 doctors across the GCC and India who managed to provide more than 100,000 consultations within just eight months of service introduction.

Smart hospitals or Hospitals 4.0

According to the United Nations, the world population is expected to exceed 8.5 billion people by 2030 and by 2050, and the number of people over the age of 60 will double in comparison to 2015. The age group of 60+ is also the population segment that requires the most amount of medical care, hospitalisation and care continuum.

To be able to meet this growing need with available resources, hospital systems will be required to undergo digital transformation and introduce ‘smart’ infrastructure through extensive use of emergent technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics and Internet of Things (IOT), to create more integrated and efficient spaces suited to the needs of patients and the providers.

This also led to adoption of smart hospital systems and electronic medical records, with regulators working alongside insurance payers to drive standardisation and automation. This has already brought in efficiency in-terms of operational excellence, better utilisation of resources and available manpower, addressing one of the key concerns of healthcare providers such as high operational costs and limited availability of talented healthcare professionals. This has also laid the grounds for a more sustainable future for the healthcare business.

Staying ahead of the curve

Digital transformation is the game changer which is set to revolutionise healthcare delivery. The transformation is expected to be positive and solve many of the issues deterring wider and affordable access. Healthcare providers who do not evolve and adapt with the changing times will fall behind in the race and become extinct. The healthcare technology space is becoming increasing popular with start-ups and SMEs innovating as per market pulse and introducing quick solutions.

The future of healthcare is shaping up in front of us. You will see humanoid robots in many hospitals — many will be unseen, sitting inside computers and providing diagnosis and treatment protocols to help the doctors. Wearables and trackers with remote monitoring has already become quite popular and will increase significantly. 3D printing of organs, remote robotic surgeries, genomic sequencing and treatment of genetic diseases through crisper technology, focus on nanotechnology in diagnosis and treatment, personalised medicine depending on your genetic structure etc. will be commonplace.

The healthcare sector has lagged behind in digitisation in the last 50 years when many other sectors like banking, retail and so on leapfrogged. Healthcare is catching up and shall be the focus in the next 10 years with a major transformation through innovation happening in the decade, which will have a major impact on the global population.

The writer is founder chairman & managing director, Aster DM Healthcare.

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