Among the many interventions expected by the PNRR (National Recovery and Resilience Plan) is the one called Mission 6 Health which provides for the allocation of 15.63 billion euros for Digital Health. More specifically, this intervention directs 8.63 billion euros to innovation and research for the digitalisation of the national health service and the remaining 7 billion to the creation of proximity networks, intermediate structures (community hospitals) and telemedicine for assistance. territorial health.
Relevant figures, which highlight the value and role of Digital Health for today’s society. But today when we talk about digital healthcare, what exactly do we mean?
Digital Health, technology at the service of health
Digital Health is a term that refers to a wide range of technologies that can be used to treat patients and collect and share information about their health. Such technologies include mobile applications, wearable devices, telemedicine, big data, robotics and artificial intelligence. Translated into practical terms, Digital Health means electronic health records, adherence to therapy via smartphone, electronic prescriptions, voice interfaces, paperless hospitals and so on. The examples are innumerable and all aimed at increasing the ability to accurately diagnose diseases and to provide adequate assistance and care to the individual.
Rapidly growing digital health with Covid-19
With the rapid spread of Covid-19 around the world, a need for immediate and accessible health care has arisen. This has led to a surge in the use of digital health technologies, impacting the growth of the industry. Furthermore, the large number of cases and the need to track the long-term effects of vaccines has driven the demand for Electronic Health Record (EHR, the digital version of the paper medical record, but updated in real time) and health analytics solutions. . This, according to i Global Market Insight data, in 2020 it brought the Digital Health market to almost 142 billion dollars. And between 2021 and 2027 there should be an annual growth of over 17.4%, thus reaching 470 billion dollars in six years. According to the research firm, the increase in the market can be attributed to the growing popularity of health informatics which has led many private and public institutions to accelerate their digitization processes and in some cases, especially in the United States, to have already completed them.
Overcoming the pandemic withHealtTech
Healthcare organizations are still grappling with the response to the coronavirus pandemic and are continually adapting their operations to better meet the needs that arise as Covid-19 progresses. However, despite facing economic, regulatory and social uncertainties, they also need to prepare for the future of care. What could the post-Covid-19 landscape look like? How could health systems address a number of possible challenges? What opportunities could revolutionize care? Healthcare professionals must be able to understand how information technology can help them face the challenges and opportunities of the “new normal” and thus clearly define the possible evolutions of their function in the Digital Health area.
An important aspect that the new digital health agenda should focus on is how to apply the lessons learned in crisis management to create a better patient experience. The pandemic has increased consumers’ dependence on digital technologies for many of their activities, such as work, shopping or weekly shopping. People expect their Digital Health experiences to be equally effective and easy to use.
HealthTech as a digital gateway to the healthcare system
To meet these expectations, healthcare systems will need to increase efforts and build a “digital gateway” that allows any patient to easily navigate the healthcare system, managing routine interactions, such as making an appointment, paying a ticket, find a doctor, get concrete answers to health questions. It is true that the public health system and many private institutions already offer several of these characteristics, but through portals with interfaces that are not always clear for all patients, with revisable services and, in some cases, with availability of access only during a few hours of the weekdays. We need to improve.
During the pandemic, many health systems showed shortcomings in their analytical skills. Data quality was uneven, analyzes took too long, and predictive models were not comprehensive enough. Not only. Executives and doctors were often poorly trained in the use of data. To adapt to the new normality, through technology it will be necessary to prepare solid, dynamic and secure network infrastructures, to have a more effective management of the big data that is collected within a healthcare facility, being able to make use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to have faster analysis and also predictive models that provide clear indications for the decisions to be made.
Remote health care thanks to telemedicine
One of the Digital Health focal points of the new normal will surely be telemedicine, the value of which, again, has been highlighted by the pandemic. However, it is interesting to note that the technology also existed in the pre-Covid 19 period, but in many cases it was not fully exploited because there was still skepticism, it was not believed that it could really provide effective and quality assistance. The pressure and thrust exerted by the demands imposed by the coronavirus have instead shown that telemedicine should be an integral part of the provision of care, as an effective and safe way to treat patients and contain the spread of infections in hospitals. More importantly, it offers the possibility to carry out visits, treatments or therapies quickly in places distant from hospitals or difficult to reach.
Thus, several healthcare facilities have already started investing more to increase virtual visit and telemedicine capabilities, enabling them with artificial intelligence, integrating with home and point-of-care monitoring devices and looking for virtual platforms for patient involvement.
From HealthTech a 360 ° response to the needs of citizens
For virtual assistance to become part of the new normal, healthcare systems will need to build a solid and permanent link between organizational, financial and clinical structures and processes. The health system will have to make the necessary adjustments so that telemedicine technology can be integrated with the electronic health record, define clinical protocols for adequate telemedicine visits, obtain reimbursement for visits and renew hospital and medical practice processes to support telemedicine (for example, how should virtual waiting rooms for telemedicine work? And how should visits be managed?). There is certainly a lot to do for remote assistance to become a daily practice, but it is a fundamental element of Digital Health. And now that the road has been taken and there is no turning back.
Cybersecurity and healthcare, an inseparable union
Digital transformation in healthcare is a priority. But there is also the downside. If on the one hand big data and the ability to process it are the strength of Digital Health, on the other hand the cybersecurity and privacy of such data are the greatest risks.
Due to the confidential nature of health data, effective risk management can mean the difference between life and death. At a time when the healthcare sector is undergoing rapid technological transformation, the confidentiality of patient data is more problematic and therefore the ability to properly manage risk is crucial. The objectives that should first of all be pursued are three.
- Safeguard the data: the integrity of sensitive data must be maintained because, if they were handled in an approximate way, they could potentially become dangerous for a patient’s life.
- Identify vulnerabilities: Cyber security is a priority for healthcare organizations and should be considered a key component of any risk management system. Many examples show that healthcare has often proved too vulnerable and cybercriminals have had it easy. Especially now that more and more new technologies are being adopted and digital transformation is underway, it is mandatory to have a plan in place to identify and monitor network vulnerabilities.
- Ensure continuityIn the event of an attack, health risk management helps organizations get back to normal operations as quickly as possible. Therefore, it is better to take all the necessary precautions to be ready to face various possible scenarios: in this way you can help ensure a quick recovery if you are the victim of a cyber attack.
Cybersecurity as a fundamental component of risk management
One thing that should not be underestimated is that threats to cybersecurity can arise from the fact that healthcare organizations increasingly use the services of external providers to simplify patient care and optimize operational efficiency. These providers are therefore likely to have access to confidential health information, but without following the same rigorous security controls that the health facility puts in place for its network. Suppliers should therefore also be included in risk management strategies.
The safety of a partner like Vodafone
From what has been said, it clearly emerges that an infrastructure that guarantees that data is protected and safe is indispensable for Digital Health. Not only. It should also provide the necessary high-speed mobile Internet coverage to enable uninterrupted use of telemedicine across all devices.
An infrastructure like the one that a partner like Vodafone Business can offer. It is in fact a flexible infrastructure designed to facilitate digital transformation. Based on Vodafone’s Giga Network, which supports the 5G protocol and provides global connectivity via smart grids, it makes available a series of managed services that allow it to better adapt to the specific needs of the healthcare sector. Among these services we find, for example, Vodafone Analytics, useful for obtaining precise information on decisions, and timely Security Management, which includes secure platforms by design and the prevention and management of threats in order to always ensure the highest level of security.
Beyond connectivity with the Vodafone Digital Health Platform
Vodafone Business has also developed some services specifically designed for the health sector. These are brought together within the Digital Health Platform offer, telemedicine based on a multi-channel platform with the aim of optimizing and automating communication processes in healthcare. Among other things, these services intend to provide the solution to three problems that emerged during the pandemic, but have a much broader value:
- Cancer screening – to improve the rates of adhesion to campaigns
- Management of vaccination campaigns – designed for Covid-19 but valid for any vaccine, it allows you to administer all pre and post administration management and organizational activities related to a vaccination campaign
- Remote monitoring of patients: an automatic phone call collects the detected parameters and manages any anomalies by activating automatic alerts to the care team. Healthcare professionals view the data via a web dashboard. In the case of Covid-19, these are patients in home isolation.
The article is part of an editorial communication project that Agendadigitale.eu is developing with Vodafone
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