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Digital transformation of healthcare: The new era of ‘Smart Hospitals’

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Nidhi Jain, Founder, KareXpert highlights the role of technology in healthcare delivery

Over the last decade or so, the paradigm of healthcare delivery has changed significantly in accord with rapid technological advancements that are taking place around us. Adding to that, the pandemic has necessitated that healthcare professionals adopt digital technologies and innovate ways to not only bring more efficiency in healthcare delivery but also in the way they operate the back-end tasks.

Against this backdrop, we are seeing the emergence of a new class of truly ‘smart hospitals’ that have undergone a complete digital overhaul or makeover. From the scheduling of appointments to capturing patient data to last-mile delivery of care, these hospitals are leveraging cutting-edge, tech-driven solutions to automate their end-to-end operations. Besides cost optimisation and enhanced business productivity, this is enabling them to deliver highly personalized and patient-centric care, and make affordable healthcare accessible to all.

In India, hospitals are central to the healthcare delivery systems, serving the healthcare needs of millions across the country. It was mostly the corporate chain of hospitals that embraced modern technology to deliver high-quality care at a lower cost, but now even small and medium-sized hospitals are recognizing the value technology-driven innovation adds to healthcare delivery. This cognizance is reflected in the growing adoption of digitally enabled tools across areas such as diagnosis, treatment and patient management.

These tools, which include HIMS, EMR/EHR, LIMS, and RIS/PACS, and BI analytics have emerged as an effective solution for healthcare professionals to store and manage critical patient data such as past treatment maps, existing health concerns, treatment preferences, medication history, etc. For example, The deployment of EMR within hospitals has not only reduced the chances of human error while data capturing, but has also taken the burden off the shoulders of hospital staff for cumbersome paper-based processes. This has proven to be essential during the peak of the pandemic when most healthcare facilities were struggling to manage a sudden influx of patients. Similarly, the use of mobile–based appointment scheduling software has transformed patient care by automating repetitive yet critical tasks such as organizing appointments, scheduling procedures, and coordinating between providers and patients to confirm availability. Similarly, discharge management, e-claim process, OT management, Inventory management, Diet management are also becoming digitised for better quality care and system is signaling care provider at the right moment to take the right decision instead of relying on human resources which are more error prone. Clinical Decision Support System is another upcoming area that is getting significant attention for quality care.

The application of digital technologies has also ensured seamless provision of telehealth services and remote monitoring of patients throughout the pandemic, enabling seamless collaboration between doctors/clinicians and patients. With features like live chat, audio and video-enabled calls, e-prescription, EMR integration, IoT device integration providers have successfully managed to implement virtual consultation models without compromising on the quality of care.

Another one of the most important features of these smart hospitals is the synchronisation between the different departments (diagnostic, inpatient, radiology, administrative etc.) within the hospital. This entails extensive use of emerging technologies like cloud, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT) and single data lake to create a more integrated communication channel to break the information silos across various departments. System integration, in fact, is the most vital step to initiating the digital transformation of hospitals. In healthcare, creating an ecosystem and collaboration is very important either inside the hospital or outside the hospital so adopting a platform based solution which is more open to connect digitally will help in the long run.

When compared to industries like finance, manufacturing and travel, the healthcare industry has been rather slow in its adoption of modern, cutting-edge technologies and digital tools. Now with the pandemic serving as a de-facto catalyst for driving tech-based innovations across various pockets in the industry, smart hospitals are becoming more commonplace and accessible to all. While this transformation was borne out of necessity in response to unprecedented uncertainties brought on by the health crisis, as the industry evolves we expect to see more hospitals investing in smart tech solutions to metamorphose into truly smart hospitals.

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