As healthcare demands, reforms, and accessibility increase, healthcare organizations are faced with the challenge to provide higher quality care at lower costs. This need was enhanced with the establishment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which mandated that access to healthcare must be expanded as far as possible. Connected healthcare is a term being heard more and more often, but before we dive into the future of healthcare, it would be wise to take a look at how we got here. With the devastating effects of the pandemic, caregivers are now looking toward adopting connected home health technologies like never before. Smart and connected health is now proven to be one of the most effective strategies toward providing better care at reduced prices.
The current care delivery system is experiencing a gross shortage of physicians and primary care providers. The only way to address this challenge is through a connected health system. Healthcare organizations now need to consider new ways of providing accessible and affordable care through the adoption of agile technologies. According to various official studies, the rate of chronically ill patients is targeted to increase at a substantial level in the years going forward. At the same time, the number of physicians and nurses pale in comparison to the need of the hour. Technological disruptions remain the only solution to address this need, and a connected healthcare model is just that.
What is meant by connected health?
In essence, connected health is a universal structure that maintains the operations of telehealth and telemedicine through connected health devices. It provides innumerable benefits to the healthcare organization and patient both. However, over and above that, connected care health services are beneficial to the entire community and country as a whole. Considering the pressure that has been realized during the present crisis, connected care health services is the only way forward. The strain on healthcare organizations is at an all-time high and caregivers are now evaluating ways to provide care to more and more people, but with diminished costs. Through the efficient implementation of connected health care systems, the overarching requirement of lower cost and higher accessibility care is realized.
What does connected health do?
As healthcare organizations look for affordable caregiving strategies, innovative technologies, and avenues to empower patients to manage their own health; a connected health care system offers all of the above. Digital health and telemedicine fulfill the need and provide much more. Connected health is an amalgamation of telehealth solutions, remote health monitoring systems, and integrated healthcare solutions. Connected value health solutions apply to intelligent technologies, remote diagnosis, and health management becomes a reality. Physicians are empowered to virtually diagnose, monitor, and treat recipients and patients are able to manage their health through lower costs, improved accessibility, and increased convenience of connected health care. The fusion of these two technologies is the backbone of connected healthcare solutions.
What is connected health in IoT?
This fusion of technology allows caregivers to alert patients virtually on medication reminders, check-ups, and remote health monitoring through smartphones and other applications that are integrated onto a cloud platform. Medical records management is stored on a common database that is secure and easily available to the relevant individuals. Reduced paperwork is a direct outcome of these deployments. The quality of healthcare is drastically improved as well. Through IoT-connected healthcare devices and technologies, workflow is streamlined, standardized procedures are adopted, patients are empowered and medical data is optimized. In the event of a pandemic, this technology can play a major role in restricting outbreaks to certain geographic areas through virtual and remote health management.
What is connected medicine?
This is, in a nutshell, the future of medicine – connectivity. The broad term refers to utilizing the power of the web to expand caregiving outside the hospital, clinic, or doctor’s premises. Telemedicine, remote monitoring, and virtual care are all features of connected medicine. Through the use of smartphones and other such devices, patient health is remotely monitored. This form of technology empowers the healthcare organization to provide quality care and empowers the patient to manage their own health. Data mining is undertaken to make meaningful interpretations and improvise overall health standards. An example of connected medicine would be to use apps that monitor the blood sugar levels of diabetic patients and offer them suggestions for diet and exercise.
What is meant by digital health?
Digital health is everything from mobile health, to health IT solutions, telehealth, and wearable devices. Every technological health adoption that works in the digital space, such as mobile medical apps and clinical support solutions comes under the digital health umbrella. Technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc. are all features of digital health technologies. Electronic medical data exchange, remote monitoring of health, automation techniques, etc. all come under the purview of digital technologies.
What is the difference between eHealth and digital health?
While both these terms borrow and lean on each other considerably, eHealth categorizes information and communication aspects and digital health is the use of eHealth, telehealth, and other such technologies that work through the use of the web and internet. Now, if you are wondering if eHealth is the same as telehealth, the answer is yes and no. eHealth refers to all things digital and telehealth is the use of smartphones and online consults for health management. Again, these terms can be used interchangeably, but they also can refer to specific areas of caregiving.
Current Crisis and Challenges:
As COVID-19 engulfed the planet, healthcare organizations have been at the forefront of the crisis. The heartbreaking impact of this pandemic has changed the reality for many Americans and the healthcare sector as a whole. Digital transformations have been adopted by multiple industries to cope with the new normal of social distancing. As the need of the hour, every industry is looking at ways to continue to offer services, even though it may mean that fundamental business operations are transformed.
The coronavirus pandemic is a gruesome reality that has brought with it the realization of changes in healthcare delivery models. Healthcare organizations have had to confront the long-delayed need to expand the accessibility, speed, and scope of care. As healthcare providers look to address the need of the hour, the future requirements of the new normal can no longer be ignored. Organizations have to look at means of staying afloat by adopting technologies that are futuristic in nature.
Other Industry Evolution:
These transformative movements have been witnessed in various industries. Consider, for example, how the entertainment industry has evolved to stay afloat. They have managed to create models that connect them directly to their consumers, at a lower price, while ensuring that all safety protocols are followed. The retail sector, too, has migrated from investment in stores to online models of sales.
Through the redesigning of health systems and the adoption of new and improved modes of care, healthcare organizations can look to success in providing primary, secondary, and even acute care to a larger population. Physical physician visits have to be replaced by a safe and convenient way to interact with caregivers. This requires a process of seamless healthcare interoperability that is both agile and technologically empowered. However, healthcare organizations have to consider the limitations imposed to ensure the financial security, healthcare data security, patient safety, quality maintenance, and affordable pricing. This requires health organizations to ensure the application of patient engagement systems that will adhere to the above conditions.
COVID-19 has brought out a startling reminder that the healthcare system needs to ramp up its operations, in terms of automation and technological advancements. This long-overdue evolution of the health sector needs a re-examination of the manner in which care is provided. Although this shortfall was noticeable even prior to the pandemic, the current situation has made change inevitable. Many surveys have displayed that caregivers are keen to adopt healthcare automation toward integrated care management. Among other things, the barriers toward advancement are those that refrain them from adopting digital health. Digital health solutions and remote patient monitoring solutions are believed to be highly sought after for the present and future of healthcare management. Connected health solutions are, therefore, the most perceivable way to manage and address patient expectations.
Strategies Toward Futuristic Healthcare:
1. Is healthcare success dependent on digital transformation?
Healthcare organizations have accepted the fact that a consumer is a top priority and the way to achieve this is through digital transformation. Through the adoption of connected healthcare management, organizations, clinicians, payers and healthcare policymakers can make an easy transition toward managing patient expectations. There are several factors to consider:
- Should this be an immediate transition or should healthcare organizations wait for the pandemic to subside?
- How will the implementation of connected health solutions translate into a better patient experience?
- Can digital healthcare be implemented successfully, in spite of the predicted recession?
- Can the current healthcare workforce easily adapt to a digital transformation?
Healthcare organizations are poised to succeed in the adoption of connected healthcare through intelligent technological adoption that offers integrated eHealth solutions that connect across multiple channels, care centers, and settings. Another key requirement toward connected home health is the right investments toward the required technologies. Keeping in mind the lessons learned during the recent pandemic, digital transformation is the building of a health enterprise that offers the advantage of smart and connected health. Connected healthcare is the essence of combining a practical operative procedure of interconnectedness of electronic health records, mHealth, clinical informatics, electronic data exchange, practice management solutions, and pharmacy management.
2. eHealth technologies and connected home health:
A broad spectrum of healthcare technologies come under eHealth application. eHealth technologies are those that have anything related to digital health and caregiving. The most recent technological disruption is related to this eHealth system. Traditional models of caregiving are a thing of the past. The number of virtual visits and online consults, made possible through an eHealth app, or an eHealth portal have increased ten-fold, as compared to physical visits to clinicians or physicians. Through the convergence of eHealth and smart and connected health care, the advantages multiply considerably. The adoption of an eHealth portal allows:
- New modes of care delivery
- Smart and connected health technologies
- eHealth Medicare options
- Electronic health systems for better care management
- Efficient disease monitoring
- Connected health care for contact tracing
- Medical records management
The requirement of patients, and the gap felt by healthcare organizations in fulfilling them, can be swiftly achieved through eHealth technologies and solutions that usher in a new age of virtual services.
3. Internet of things in healthcare applications:
Another revolutionary technology that is geared to enhance the capabilities of healthcare organizations are healthcare internet of things solutions. Internet of Things (IoT) and healthcare systems can significantly increase service levels, provide quality care and improve patient outcomes. Compound this with health IT solutions and you have got yourself an ace.
The Role of Healthcare Internet of Things:
Now, imagine if all of these solutions could be virtually and efficiently provided to the patient. This is the power of converging IoT and connected care through healthcare interoperability. Integrated health systems with real-time monitoring through intelligent medical technologies allows for the management of a larger populace of patients and provides a higher quality of healthcare. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is another powerful tool that offers a host of advantages to healthcare organizations. EDI in healthcare is a direct example of interoperability in healthcare. Through, electronic data interchange, healthcare organizations can:
- Enhance clinical record-keeping through EDI solutions
- Efficient monitoring
- Create platforms for patient empowerment
- Analyze and assess health risk
- Explore avenues for continuity of care
- Compare treatment outcomes
- Monitor performance parameters
- Determine clinical trial efficacy
- Optimize resource utilization
- Manage medication requirements
- Reduce patient readmission rates
- Increase patient satisfaction
- Increase administrative quality
- Chronic care management
As a technology healthcare internet of things can provide a strong backbone in managing care through health IT solutions, wearable devices and electronic data exchange.
4. Telemedicine, Telehealth Solutions, and Healthcare Information Management:
While telemedicine refers mostly to the curative aspect of care, telehealth looks at the remote management of multiple aspects of care. Bring connected health into the equation and you now have an optimal set of tools, with multiple digital health options for higher outcomes.
As a health monitoring system, telehealth solutions can provide unprecedented access to care and operational efficiency. When telehealth technology is merged with opportunities of collaborative care, the sky is the limit. As the world comes closer and with its increased bandwidth, telehealth technology is not only getting cheaper but far more useful. When telemedicine solutions are incorporated with interoperability in healthcare, the outcome provides dual benefit. For example, rural healthcare organizations can connect with bigger urban hospitals and offer a higher quality of caregiving service through these technologies.
- Healthcare management solutions that utilize such technologies can offer:
A healthcare management system that adopts technologies of this nature can benefit in multiple ways:
- Reduced cost of care
- Increased accessibility to patients
- Improved quality of care
- Higher interconnectedness
- Security of healthcare data
- Enhanced convenience through connectivity
- Efficient management of time
- Maximized productivity
It is plain to see, with the recent occurrences, that telehealth and connected care lie at the forefront of emerging trends in healthcare. Affordable and quality care are a direct outcome of this technological advancement and the underlying factor behind its exponential growth.
Wave goodbye to traditional models of care delivery and welcome the future of healthcare that relies more on technology-enabled care options for remote healthcare delivery. The emerging trends of patient-centric care and patient-participative models are not only the need of the hour but the landscape of the future as well. Telehealth, remote home visits, chronic disease management, and wellness apps are the trends that healthcare organizations need to prioritize to stay ahead in the game. Patient care through information sharing on a secure platform has never been more in demand. Consumers are now increasingly aware of their own health and are looking at multiple avenues to manage their own health. Remote care and telehealth technologies turn this desire into a reality. The enhanced communication channels that come about with digital health are ready to be lapped up by the new age health consumer. Electronic visits, email and texts between physicians and patients, electronic health data, and image exchanges are all becoming commonplace now. This trend is only set to grow and healthcare organizations need to undertake a transformative approach toward technological adoptions that bring them closer to connected care.
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Written by Riken Shah linkedin
Riken's work motto is to help healthcare providers use technological advancements to make healthcare easily accessible to all stakeholders, from providers to patients. Under his leadership and guidance, OSP Labs has successfully developed over 600 customized software solutions for 200+ healthcare clients across continents.