Creating better patient outcomes through digital health care and technological evolution
By David Deakin, Transformation and Healthcare Industry Director, Dell Technologies Australia & New Zealand
Friday, 16 July, 2021
In recent years, global health services have embraced the rapid digitalisation of patient care, enhancing connectivity and access to resources in a drive to deliver better patient outcomes and improve the health of the population. While we have come a long way in a short time, there is still much work to do to ensure everyone has access to high-quality medical environments — realising the potential of the digital health landscape is key to this progression.
In the last year, momentum has grown, and intentions remain strong to further advance the digital transformation of health care — with the benefits generated from a tech-centric approach now evident across many service areas, including virtual care delivery, telehealth and remote monitoring.
Healthcare systems around the world have long faced the challenge of ageing populations and rural access to services, and the rise of chronic illnesses such as cancers, diabetes and heart disease. While digital technologies were deployed in many areas to help combat these illnesses and support health systems, existing challenges have been amplified in the last year. With medical systems overwhelmed or unable to open their doors, a survey of Australian healthcare professionals reported a 73% increase in the volume of telephone-based care since COVID and a 60% increase in use of video consultations.1
Supporting health systems to recover and rejuvenate is now a priority as governments look to ‘build back better’. The Australian Government is committed to investing AU$301.8 million to enhance the My Health Record system, adding support for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, connecting residential aged-care facilities and connecting specialists in private practice, and delivering improved telehealth, emerging virtual healthcare initiatives and digitised support. The government also announced a budget of AU$204.6 million on telehealth services and AU$111.2 million to mental health and wellbeing.2 The Victorian Government developed a program, HealthLinks, which aims to determine whether flexible funding can enable health services to develop and implement alternative models to in-patient acute care providing better experiences and outcomes for patients with chronic conditions, at equal or lower cost.3
Looking ahead, between 2021 and 2024, global health spending is expected to rise at a 3.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) — much faster than the 2.8% recorded in 2015–2019.
The fastest growth will be in ANZ (5.3%) and the transition economies of Central and Eastern Europe (5.2%), with the slowest in Latin America (0.7%).4 This presents an opportunity for governments to sow the seeds of future-facing, equitable and open health services for all, through digital technologies.
Rising to the healthcare challenge
The acceleration that we have seen in the last year is just a drop in the ocean of what is truly possible. In many regions around the world, telehealth kept doctors’ appointments rolling while mental health therapies took place via cloud-based video platforms. In some hospitals, overrun ICU wards were supported with data-driven platforms that enabled flexible, scalable and remote monitoring of care beds — helping to expand staff capacity while syncing medical device data for real-time analytics.5 The opportunity for technology to bolster operational efficiencies through digital channels is immense, but it is reliant on foundational hybrid-cloud infrastructure, trust in patient data privacy and secured electronic health records.
Building back better with digital health care
The opportunity to transform health care digitally is unique to our time — and comes at an exciting moment for technological innovation. With the groundwork being laid for new, connective technologies like 5G, we are on the cusp of a new era of data-driven, patient-centric health care. Taking on board the lessons and digital inequalities brought to light during the past year, we understand better than before how important it is that we build back healthcare services in a way that is equitable, efficient and accessible to all. This means keeping patients at the heart of innovation while thinking outside of the box — and applying a deep and trusted understanding of the technologies that promise a healthcare revolution.
The possibilities are alive and kicking. AI is speeding up cancer diagnoses and improving patient outcomes with precision treatments. 5G connectivity promises robotic surgery capabilities that could enable surgeons to operate remotely. Meanwhile, IoT is already streamlining patient care and cloud-based platforms are enabling patients in rural areas to access basic healthcare services. However, to make these possibilities universal and evolve them even further beyond today’s capabilities, reinforcing the foundations for digital health care is key. Investing now in the technologies that will underpin future health care is critical to securing the health of tomorrow’s patients and the betterment of global societies.
The World Health Organization envisages the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.6 It is down to governments and sectoral and digital innovators to collaborate wholeheartedly to ensure this right is enacted for all. With so much opportunity afoot to truly deliver the best-in-class health care, technology is well positioned to play a central role in delivering better patient outcomes and addressing societal inequalities. Through leveraging the potential of digital transformation, we can build back a better healthcare system and pave the way for a healthier, sustainable and truly interconnected world.
- Australian Budget 2021-22 https://budget.gov.au/.
- Deloitte, Digital transformation: Shaping the future of European healthcare, September 2020.
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