Similar to other industries, the healthcare sector is investing in new technologies to reform itself. This move is expected to continue as Gartner forecasted healthcare providers to lead IT spending growth, with a 4.33 percent compound annual growth rate from 2013 through 2018, according to a ZDNet report.
These investments will not only help improve patient care but also boost employees' efficiency, said Dr Axel Wehmeier, senior vice president for strategic market healthcare for Deutsche Telekom, in an interview. "In future, healthcare will be more seamless, connected, mobile and intelligent -- all of which will benefit everyone."
The new face of healthcare in Singapore
Taking Singapore as an example, its government has identified IT as a tool that could help provide quality healthcare services that are both accessible and affordable to Singaporeans.
The republic has thus planned to look at ways to leverage data analytics for analytics as well as implementing tele-health, said Singapore's Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at the Healthcare information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) AsiaPac14 last month.
He explained that analytics can be used to better understand the population, enabling local healthcare services to be more targeted at areas such as disease prevention programmes.
Tele-health, on the other hand, will help bring healthcare closer to patients, said Gan. For instance, tele-health allows stroke patients to perform rehabilitative exercises or physiotherapy from their homes. This translates into "time and cost savings for patients [as well as] increased productivity for allied health professionals," he added.
Since tele-health allows regular remote monitoring of patients' health status and vital signs, it could potentially reduce the number of re-admittance and/or unnecessary visits to the hospital too, said Dr Wehmeier. He added that having such data in near real-time also allows healthcare professionals to intervene where necessary.
Investing in infrastructure
While it may be tempting to quickly deploy customer/employee-facing technologies given its benefits, healthcare organisations need to first invest in their IT infrastructure. "The infrastructure is the backbone of a connected healthcare ecosystem. Without an integrated infrastructure/system, it'll be more challenging for digital technologies, such as tele-health, to work well," reasoned Dr Wehmeier.
Understanding that, Singapore's Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) recently launched the Nursing Home IT Enablement Programme (NHELP), that aims to help improve patient care and boost productivity.
Connected to AIC's Integrated Referral Management System and the National Electronic Health Record (NEHR), the IT system will ensure timelier flows of residents' electronic health information between different care institutions and participating nursing homes. Using the patients' medical history and records, the system will then be able to facilitate care planning for residents accordingly.
The NHELP IT system will also automate process and documentation, boosting productivity and efficiency, said AIC in a press statement. For instance, the system will enable nurses to electronically retrieve residents' records as well as automate the submission of data to the Ministry of Health for aid grants.
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