Continuing our series on digital healthcare, we’re now going to look at trends in digital patient experience for the year to come. These trends will be especially helpful in staying on top of and ahead of your competitors.
Digital patient experience is increasingly more popular, especially since the surge of COVID-19 in 2020, this has shone a spotlight on healthcare, with people becoming aware of the importance of good healthcare. Furthermore, the recommended social distancing due to COVID-19 has also created a requirement for digital patient experience.
Trends in Digital Patient Experience 2021
Healthcare Delivery Infrastructure
With technology, healthcare delivery models have extended past physical restrictions to provide digital patient experience through telemedicine. This new healthcare delivery infrastructure has expanded to include digital technologies.
We are seeing a surge in online consultations which will be here to stay beyond the days of COVID-19, it’s more convenient for both parties involved for initial consultations. Hospitals are able to leverage on remote patient consultations and video-based care delivery to create a more accessible way to reach patients. Furthermore, telemedicine has made it easier for those in rural areas to have access to healthcare, cutting down on the need to travel physically since they are able to have an initial consultation online.
Malaysia’s DoctorOnCall is a telemedicine platform that has seen a huge growth in usage since COVID-19 strengthened the foundation of digital patient experience. CodeBlue reports that, since February 2020, the “DoctorOnCall’s website has seen over five million visitors to the website, has over three million monthly active users and successfully concluded thousands of consultations between patients and doctors”.
Bearing in mind, telemedicine isn’t a replacement for face-to-face consultations but is considered an added service to patients for ease and convenience, especially if there’s a challenge travelling to a hospital.
The improved healthcare delivery infrastructure is also beneficial in cutting costs. In Singapore, a study on the cost-effectiveness for the National Telemedicine Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Programme has proven to be more cost-effective compared to a traditional physician-based screening.
This trend is here to stay and will only grow in popularity, especially with the collaboration of wearable technology which aids in providing useful information to doctors online. Which brings us to our next trend:
Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is a connected infrastructure of medical devices, software applications, health systems and services. These could be as simple as a heart rate monitor on your smartwatch to help track blood pressure or as complex as reading a direct feed from a dialysis machine 600 miles away, connected via the internet.
According to a report by Deloitte, there are more than 500,000 medical technologies that are currently available. The report also notes that the rise of IoMT is driven by “an increase in the number of connected medical devices that are able to generate, collect, analyze or transmit health data or images and connect to healthcare provider networks, transmitting data to either a cloud repository or internal servers.”
Goldman Sachs estimates that IoMT will save the healthcare industry $300-billion USD annually, that’s more than RM1.2 trillion! These cost reductions stems from:
- Remote patient monitoring: IoMT devices allow an opportunity for non-critical patients to be monitored at home, which decreases hospital admissions and further reduces any unnecessary costs.
- Remote equipment diagnostics: IoMT technology can also monitor and manage expensive medical equipment and significantly improve downtime costs.
- Operations: Real-time location systems provide real-time tracking and management of medical equipment, improving the workflow for staff and patients, reducing any unnecessary costs whilst increasing the clinical quality environment.
The capabilities of IoMT allows for more accurate diagnoses, reducing the number of mistakes and lowers costs. Furthermore, when paired with smartphones, it empowers patients to send their health information to doctors.
Big Data & AI
Big data and AI work hand in hand in improving the digital patient experience and it’s only getting better as it gets bigger.
AI improves the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of diagnostics. Imagine, instead of having to go through thousands of documents, AI can help to identify appropriate and important information almost immediately. Instead of relying purely on the human eye, AI can detect any changes in scans and be able to pinpoint any minor tumours or nodules that can’t be easily seen by the human eye.
In fact, research shows that pathology could be made into a fully-digital discipline with the help of AI, where it reduces unwarranted variations in performance through computer algorithms.
AI can be applied to almost every aspect of healthcare, it can significantly reduce medical errors by flagging any inconsistencies and alerting the health professionals. Big data’s predictive analysis can also aid hospitals and clinics to estimate future admission rates so that they can be prepared and allocate sufficient staff members.
Through machine learning, the digital patient experience may be improved through chatbot technology which patients can utilize for self-diagnosis or to assist doctors in diagnosing patients.
The possibilities of big data, AI and machine learning are endless. The potential to synergise with healthcare provides a massive amount of opportunities and possibilities and is an essential trend for the future of healthcare and digital patient experience.
When we think blockchain, we don’t necessarily connect that to digital patient experience or healthcare. But with the rise of technology intertwining with healthcare, blockchain is vital for data security.
Digital ledgers help to distribute records to patients securely, and blockchain’s peer-to-peer system permits a large number of users secure access to a common ledger.
The interoperability of blockchain is a huge advantage which provides a greater integrity in the use of healthcare information through public-private key methods. For example, it would allow a specialist to access important information quickly through a secure system instead of waiting on paper-work and permission, reducing the bureaucracy.
The demand of integrity, accessibility, security and portability of data is more important than ever, and blockchain in the key. Furthermore, blockchain improves the transparency through full visibility of the digital ledger. So if there are any concerns of counterfeiting, the logged transactions can be easily referred to, which also saves costs and effort in having to track these transactions manually.
Virtual reality has gone beyond the boundaries of gaming and into digital patient experience. VR can be used by doctors or other healthcare practitioners to practice their skillset through simulations, it can also be used to prepare for complicated surgeries.
VR headsets can be used by patients to exercise, treat pain, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even stroke. AR and VR technologies help to put stroke patients in a robust and safe environment to help regain motor control. The simulated environment helps to provide more flexibility than physical therapy can’t provide, and the controlled environment also helps in gathering data to tailor care plans and to help other patients.
In 2016, Malaysia’s Ministry of Health conducted research to determine whether VR can be effective for ophthalmology training to increase patient safety and have found that there is a “fair to good level of retrievable evidence to suggest that the VR systems for ophthalmology training were able to improve surgeon operating performance and skills.”
Microsoft’s HoloLens is an augmented reality device that is being used in more than 100 top tier hospitals in China, it helps in designing surgical plans, conducting medical training and to help in navigating surgeries. By using HoloLens, physicians situated in three remote locations were able to simultaneously view the patient’s CT and MRI scans in 3D, aiding them significantly in offering guidance to surgeons in the operating theatre in real time.
Due to restricted access to operating theatres in Singapore because of the Covid-19 pandemic, medical students had to find new ways to experience the process of patient safety and immersion in operating theatre procedures. Through VR, these students learnt about the entire flow of the perioperative setting, from anaesthesia evaluation to safe conduct of operations in a simulated environment.
Even the most traditional physical face to face aspects of diagnosis, treatment and care in patient experience has made use of a technological solution to bring about increased effectiveness, lowered costs and improved quality. There are countless benefits in investing into digital patient experiences and digital healthcare, it’s beneficial for all parties to incorporate the trends above in elevating the healthcare industry.
These trends are all well and good but the most important factor is user research. In order to cater to patients and to provide successful digital patience experience, we must understand the patients’ pain points by conducting user research. User research can help to gain valuable insights not just to existing problems that patients are experiencing, but also the entire journey map in getting medical assistance.
Of course, a generic system can be procured but it is what it is: generic. In order to evaluate whether the system is supportive in providing a better patient experience, user research is needed. The results will help you and your team understand how the system fares and what improvements can be made to the system according to patients’ feedback.
Incorporating user research will help to drive the direction towards ensuring an effective digital patient experience.