We are living in the most technically advanced era known to man. Digitalisation is having a major influence on most sectors, and healthcare is no exception. Government owned hospitals, private institutions and pharmaceutical companies are all adopting digital strategies.  

But what exactly is digitalisation within a healthcare setting? Can it truly improve the patient experience?  

According to Gartner, digitalisation is ‘the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities. It is the process of moving to a digital business.’ 

The impact of digital adoption can be divided into two categories:  

  1. Improving the patient experience. Including reduced wait times in hospitals, improving access to clinical information and enhancements to care in a patient’s home.  
  2. Improving clinical outcomes. This includes faster recovery times, breakthrough medication and effective innovations within surgery.   

New digital adoption

In recent years, there has been a wide range of technology introduced into healthcare settings – including hospitals and GP Practices. There has also been an influx of technology-based health and wellbeing products entering the market. The new technologies include the following:  

Health & Fitness apps

In 2021, there were around 50,000 healthcare apps available on both the Apple Store and Google Play Store. Apps have improved the way consumers can be involved in their healthcare journeys, fitness regimes and mental wellness. For example, the Diabetes:M app allows patients to manage their condition by recording insulin injection times and glucose readings.  

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI refers to the ability to teach computers and machines to replicate human thinking, process data, predict outcomes and perform tasks. This has been very useful in advancing clinical outcomes for patients in recent years.  

AI is being used for patient diagnosis, early disease detection and to recommend appropriate treatments. An example of this is a company called Buoy Health which allows patients to explain their symptoms to a chatbox. AI technology is then used to provide treatment options and recommendations.   

Innovative customer devices

There has been a market increase of digital devices, interactive exercise machines and even well-being pods which diffuse calming scents electronically. A great example of innovation in this category is the Lumen device. This tracks its user’s metabolism, recommends healthy meal plans and advises on how to optimise a workout.   

Case studies

Now we’ll examine the different ways technology can be adopted, implemented and successfully rolled out across the global healthcare market by looking at three case studies. 

The patient journey app

The Patient Journey App is a software program which can be used by healthcare practitioners to streamline and improve patient journeys. The app provides a timeline for treatment and sends push notifications. This includes information like wound care instructions and medication reminders.  

Akademikliniken is a clinic in Sweden which introduced the Patient Journey App to breast augmentation patients. The clinic reported patients were very happy about receiving relevant information at the right time. As a result, the clinic experienced an improved Net Promoter Score (NPS).   

Virtual Reality (VR) treatment

A small number of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) providers have started using VR headsets to treat phobias such as the fear of public speaking. The headsets are used to create life like scenarios which patients would otherwise avoid because of fear. The stimulated environment can be controlled and increased in intensity to help patients manage their symptoms.  

The technology replaces the previous method of patients watching videos or being placed in real world situations. The VR treatment improves the patient experience as the environment is both immersive and controlled.  

Butterfly Network Inc.

The Butterfly IQ+ is an innovative portable ultrasound device for healthcare professionals. The device performs for longer than traditional ultrasound devices and provides sharper images. The technology is being used in places around the world where access to medical imaging is limited or non-existent.  

The device provides improved clinical outcomes for users as Doctors can scan body parts quickly to gain an understanding of their patients’ needs.  

Lessons learnt

Here are five key lessons learnt about how digitalisation can indeed improve the patient experience:  

  • Apps can make life easier for both patients and clinicians as they enable medical information to be communicated remotely.  
  • New technologies can be used to improve clinical outcomes for patients however, they are likely to still require humans to operate the technology.  
  • Health and wellbeing devices empower consumers to take an active role in the management of their health, fitness and mental wellness.  
  • Innovative devices such as VR headsets and portable ultrasounds provide exciting new ways to identify and treat physical and mental illness.  
  • AI can be used within healthcare for menial tasks such as admin and more important tasks such as diagnosing illness.  

Overall, it’s clear that by adopting new technologies, healthcare organisations can indeed improve the patient experience. Digitalisation provides convenience, increased productivity and new ways of administering treatment.  

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