Healthcare tech adoption 'not far off'
One of the most damaging myths surrounding digitisation is that it is an "all or nothing" process, says Valter Ad~ao, leader of Deloitte Digital in Africa and firm-wide healthcare and life sciences industry leader for Deloitte in Southern Africa.
In the healthcare industry, stakeholders often make the mistake of thinking the widespread adoption of new healthcare technologies is "still far off," says Ad~ao, who thinks this adoption will come sooner than expected.
Healthcare providers do not need to massively overhaul their practices to meet the oncoming wave of new technologies when they can integrate certain technologies within traditional healthcare structures, or adopt technological solutions in a gradual and modularised process, Ad~ao continues.
The biggest changes to the healthcare systems we know will come in the form of data management and analytics, says Ad~ao.
These changes could include electronic patient files securely accessible via cloud technologies to ensure consistency and reliability in patients' medical records regardless of whether they change doctors, wearables and monitoring devices tracking both physical vitals and lifestyle factors, and analytics employed to tailor treatments to patients based on unique health profile instead of a generic solution, he elaborates.
However, data-related healthcare solutions may take a while to gain traction due to regulatory concerns relating to data security and privacy, notes Ad~ao.
With regards to data security, "I'm not sure the risk is any different from doing online transactions or purchases," he says, positing that healthcare data will need to be protected with a similar level of cyber security to that used by banks.
Privacy concerns should be addressed with regulations allowing patients to be fully informed of how their data will be used, and to give uncompromised consent for this usage, Ad~ao puts forward.
Other significant and perhaps more immediately-relevant uses of medical technology are born from the need to eliminate unnecessary effort or wasted time in medical care processes, Ad~ao continues.
The Scanadu Scout, for example, is a small mobile device for assessing vital signs such as heart rate, body temperature, and oxygen levels, which can help the user decide whether they need to visit a doctor.
Ontario, Canada-based CarePartners, an agency providing home care services to elderly people, people with disabilities and post-operative patients, allows care providers to access and update patient records and appointment schedules via their smartphones using mobile healthcare management app VisitManager.
The app has drastically increased scheduling efficiency and greatly reduced missed visits for patients and the amount of time wasted on these by carers, says Kelly Baechler, manager of organisational change at CarePartners.
More than mobile
Yet the development of healthcare technology reaches far beyond nifty mobile devices and apps, says Ad~ao. 3D printing could make prosthetic limbs cheaper and more accessible.
Heinrich Pretorius, OKI product specialist at DCC, says printing technology is advancing to allow medical practitioners and facilities to use one printer for all their printing needs, as opposed to maintaining several different printers for different types of scans and imaging processes.
Printing technology is also evolving to allow users to print directly from medical equipment without the need for time-consuming conversion software or external hardware, he adds.
Such developments can save healthcare practitioners money, which can in turn be invested elsewhere, Pretorius concludes.