Digital transformation within healthcare is enabling patients to embrace ever-more precise technologies to bring greater connectivity with their physicians and healthcare teams.
Remote, wearable, devices can collect data around the clock, often without user intervention, and monitor subtle changes in their condition that may help with a diagnosis or shape forward treatment pathways.
This is particularly valuable in heart arrythmias, such as Atrial Fibrillation, which may be intermittent and difficult to detect during visits to the physician.
Several wearable devices can also measure body temperature, see fluctuations in pulse, and pick up blood pressure readings, all in real-time in the patient’s natural home environment.
This may also avoid spikes in readings that may appear because of the stress that can be associated with visiting the clinic or doctor’s office.
The patient journey has inevitably become more virtual in recent years, and very much accelerated because of the restrictions and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
This interaction with digital health that has seen the use of technology platforms to communicate medical information; track, prevent, manage, and treat diseases; and promote health and wellness, is now the “new normal” and also significantly improving patient engagement.
Accenture, for example, found that since COVID-19, 60% of patients want to use technology more for their healthcare.
Along with wearables, telehealth and telemedicine, digital health also embraces different digital tools, biometric sensors, wearables, reminders for appointments, electronic health records (EHRs), results, and imaging.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), growing evidence shows that the more engaged a patient is, the more likely they are to have better health outcomes and experiences in their health journey.
Meanwhile, digital health is enhancing those levels of engagement and also enabling healthcare professionals to efficiently connect and communicate with patients in a “patient-centric care” approach.
It can also widen access to healthcare for underserved communities, who are isolated because of geography or their condition, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.
Wearables, such as the CART-I smart ring can monitor patient data constantly, and transmit it to physicians to help support diagnosis or treatment planning, often without user intervention.
The CART-I ring cardio tracker from Sky Labs, which is the world’s first ring-type smart wearable heart rhythm monitoring medical device, continuously measures heart rate from screening the bloodstream 24/7 through the finger.
But there are important factors to consider when looking to deliver or enhance digital healthcare.
These include creating patient-friendly designs that are easy to use and understand; flexibility in the channels of approach, from email, text, or social media; adaptive to different languages or cultural needs; and be inclusive in terms of usability such as font size and features that take into account location or disabilities.
Well-thought-out digital health applications can reach a wider patient group more effectively.
A 2020 Accenture report, which surveyed over 2,000 consumers across several countries, found that younger patients were more open to virtual care than traditional in-person care.
Healthcare providers accelerated digital transformation in order to increase remote monitoring and care because of pandemic demands.
But increasingly, in the post-pandemic world, that is now to meet patient expectation and demand.
The IT innovations embraced by healthcare providers during the challenges of the last two years will shape the patient experience going forward.
This involves creating a “digital front door” to enable patients to gain easier access to care and health information via digital channels, such as self-service scheduling and referrals, patient reminders to minimize patient no-shows, proactive outreach to reduce readmissions, and support for multiple inbound and outbound communication channels.
For healthcare professionals, the technology must deliver relevant workflows to help them manage patient information and efficient communication.