The healthcare industry, as we know it, was already undergoing widespread transformation before the pandemic hit. Consolidation, new payment structures, and telemedicine were hitting providers from all sides. Arriving amid all these changes, COVID-19 presented both an enormous challenge and a unique opportunity for the healthcare industry at large.
Just as similar public health crises have in the past, the pandemic exposed a broad need for business models that are more resilient in the face of change and more fluid in terms of operations. Hospitals had to build and expand their digital capabilities and infrastructure necessary to support remote work and advance clinical services—fast. Today, more than ever, the future of medicine is full of possibilities. As such, I foresee a number of changes.
Digital transformation is here to stay. Healthcare organizations will continue to transition to health IT systems powered by cloud computing and data and analytics tools to enable real-time, smart digital health. Hospitals of the future will use interoperable data and platforms supported by deep learning capabilities, always-on biosensors, and behavioral research to shape consumer beliefs and actions. They will also apply virtual care, AI, and other technologies to personalize medicine, enable real-time care interventions, and provide behavioral nudges. With the adoption of EHR and other digital solutions, data is set to grow exponentially.
Emerging disruptors. The introductions of wearable biometric devices that provide patients with information about their own health allow patients to easily access care no matter where they live. With new technologies focused on remote monitoring, research, and healthcare availability, patients will be able to take a more active role in their care. To add to this, with the entry of non-traditional but technically savvy players such as Amazon, Apple, Samsung, the healthcare industry is set to ride the wave of disruption.
Evolving patient needs. Demands on healthcare change. Every year, new cures and treatments help manage common diseases, but the pandemic is set to have its own set of implications. In the last two years, we have seen two concepts arise – the rise of an ageing population and growing instability in mental and physical well-being due to COVID-19 related concerns. As time goes by, the needs of these very patients will constantly change, and come with some challenges of their own.
Consolidation of beds. Regulatory, technology, and market dynamics have made this aspect the next big challenge. Mergers and acquisitions will give organizations the imperative to innovate through new capabilities, resources, and relationships.
Inter-city movement. Today’s traffic and urbanization has led to valuable time lost on the road—especially when it comes to healthcare emergencies where every minute is crucial. Telemedicine, online consultations, and online diagnoses are going to help break this barrier and we have to be prepared to accept this new reality where we miss the initial touch-and-feel and initiate this process online.
Manpower crunch. India has one physician for every 1404 people and 1.7 nurses per 1000 people. To add to this, healthcare organization will have to identify future skills needs and training requirements.
Creating a robust IT infrastructure. Hospitals will have to consider a cloud-based solution.
The rise of on-demand healthcare. The healthcare industry is entering the era of digital innovation, as patients seek on-demand healthcare because of their busy schedules. In the future, doctors themselves will become on-demand healthcare providers to better meet the changing needs of their patients, another benefit of digital transformation in the healthcare industry.
Overall, digitization will continue to have a massive impact on the operation of the healthcare industry. While technology can never replace physicians entirely but will surely bring efficiency which is needed in an under-penetrated country like India. It would not be a matter of AI versus physicians, but one of the physicians plus AI.
The future will see more collaboration and integration of technology with traditional healthcare. In a utopian world, humans and machines would co-exist for a healthy and better tomorrow.