Health care under pressure: A proving ground for technology
- Posted on July 14, 2020
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
A Defining Moment in Health Care
More than other industries, health care is at the forefront of the global pandemic. In rapid response, I have seen organizational leaders and providers seize this moment to reset health care past the threshold of tech innovation into practical adoption. I do not recall a time where more has been done in such a short amount of time to accelerate a digital health care transformation.
A vulnerable health system
No one individual, industry or organization has been unaffected by the current global disruption. COVID-19 has spread to more than 185 countries and regions globally with over 3,000,000 confirmed cases. Whether across the country or here in my own community, the pandemic has revealed shared vulnerabilities in many health care systems.
- Facility and staff capacity are strained
- Risk of infection in our workforce, especially among front-line hospital workers
- Inability to forecast needs and meet demands within/across network and local community
- Lack of spare cycles for health workers and administrators to plan/adjust properly
- Insufficient inventory levels by item to meet specific care needs
Health care should never be the same
I am sure that the COVID-19 pandemic is leading us to permanent changes in how care is delivered. Governments, including Canada, Italy, India and the United States, are racing to help providers adopt virtual treatment approaches on a much more widespread scale. Health care organizations are finding new ways to help prevent the spread of disease for patients and providers without direct contact and still provide quality care.
Four top transformative opportunities
While we all want to respond as quickly as possible, we need to help our clients create a sustainable digital transformation. This requires a well-designed strategic digital plan tied to advanced technology-enabled models and solutions. Moving forward, a good starting point is to look at four key virtual technologies helping health care organizations respond, reset and renew for growth and resiliency.
Virtual medicine might seem unwise or unnecessary in non-crisis times, but there are some demographic shifts underway, which suggest that it is all but inevitable. Millennials and centennials, starting from the 1980’s forward, are comfortable with technology. In fact, 60% of millennials would choose a telehealth visit over an in-person one if given the choice.
Industries like banking and financial services have already shifted to online services. Now health care is rapidly adopting telehealth models in large part to reduce exposure and minimize surges in care facilities. In the U.S. alone virtual care visits are expected to soar to more than 1 billion this year, including 900 million visits related to COVID-19.
Doctors can now virtually conduct hospital rounds, inpatient visits and consult with colleagues using digital boards and other communication platforms. This helps preserve protective equipment which can be redeployed to where there is the highest need and protects providers and staff from getting or spreading infectious diseases.
The health care industry has been hard hit with shortages in personal protective equipment, ventilators and other medical equipment. Clinical continuity has been disrupted and in some cases care delayed.
Moving forward technology to track, capture and predict supply demand will be essential. Leveraging the latest sensor hardware technologies and advanced analytics, data can be quickly captured with near time visibility into physical assets and necessary supplies.
AI-powered virtual agents
Increasingly, health care organizations are using sophisticated bots to help staff manage heavy workloads strained under the weight of increased demand for health care services. For example, we partnered with Microsoft and created a chatbot in five days to create a communication channel to help citizens track symptoms.
Virtual agents can provide education, answering questions and routing callers to appropriate departments. With AI intelligence, virtual agents use machine learning, computer vision, text analytics and natural language processing to analyze and generate actionable information so that health care workers can make informed decisions and appropriately address escalations.
Data generated from each interaction can be harmonized into robust predictive analytics. Whether its analyzing call center volume or the number and types of inquiries received, analytics need to be visually clear so any problems or trends can be quickly identified.
Rapid response and tracing
Many healthcare organizations need to track and gain visibility over critical resources like available beds and scarce supplies including ventilators and masks. Countries also need to better track the rate of infection.
With advanced technology, health care institutions, public agencies and even frontline workers can collect health information to help determine key locations of infected individuals. The data collected can be used to trigger automated communications to people who have been exposed.
Responding to the call
With Accenture, we have helped prevent the spread of COVID-19 in a 22-facility health system and protected over 6,000 clinicians and their patients with virtual clinical rounding. Enterprises have used speech services to manage customer service inquiries, and we have been able to help thousands of health care organizations connect and work together around the world.
Working under pressure defines how we move forward
I continue to be amazed at how organizational leaders and providers are quickly rethinking how care is delivered. Advanced cloud technologies and AI-powered solutions are rapidly moving forward. As a global community, we are all determined to face this crisis. At Avanade, we are here to help fix not only what is broken but to innovate and make it stronger.