Transformation In Healthcare And Life Science Technology During And Beyond COVID-I9

<p style="text-align: justify;">We are living through a historical moment. The world has not experienced anything like COVID-19 in the past hundred years. COVID-19 has become a pandemic, and no country has been spared. The pandemic has overwhelmed healthcare systems and emptied public spaces. The people have been struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy in these trying times.</p><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 14pt;">The Impact of COVID-19 on the Life Sciences Industry </span></h2><p style="text-align: justify;">This crisis has also gotten some of the greatest minds together to fight this battle and win over the virus. This has also stimulated some of the best frugal innovations with never seen before speed. The scientific community is sharing the data with great transparency and racing against time. And last but not least, this urgency has also made the healthcare systems around the world adopt the technology in a much better way to change the landscape of care delivery.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Digital health technology has been around for over a decade. The world recognizes its promise. The compelling use cases that will provide outcome improvement and resource optimization have long been identified. However, the implementation and execution at scale have always been marred with various challenges such as accuracy of data, integration challenges, privacy concerns, regulatory challenges, etc. As a result, despite many interesting prototype solutions and pilots, we still have not seen the large-scale deployment of digital health technology.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">All that is about to change. And it's going to change rapidly. As the clinics and hospitals are getting overcrowded, healthcare providers are recognizing that <a href="">digital health technology</a> &nbsp;will allow them to extend the care delivery remotely, thereby augmenting their capacity. Governments across the globe are rushing to publish new policies about digital medicine amid the current chaos, and patients are finally getting over their inhibitions and are more open to using modern digital health technology. It's all unfolding in front of our eyes. The pandemic has indeed accelerated digital transformation. Digital health has made more progress in terms of adoption in the last few years.</p><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 14pt;">Healthcare and Digital Transformation &ndash; Challenges and Solutions&nbsp;</span></h2><p>Breaking down the COVID-19 situation from the overall care delivery perspective, here are the identified problem areas and the technology that can act as a gamechanger:</p><p><strong>1. Remote Diagnostics</strong>: &nbsp;This is an area that will by far see the biggest change. People who suspect that they are sick and want to consult with a doctor are terrified of going to the clinic due to the risk of catching the infection. Doctors are at the frontline and are the high-risk individuals for seeing patients. In order to protect themselves, doctors are required to use the consumables (such as PPEs) (very short in supply) that they would not otherwise use for routine examination. The only solution to all these challenges is remote/virtual consultation. Telemedicine is going to be gaining a lot of traction from now on.</p><p>Many governments are simplifying their policies (the Ministry of health in India along with the medical council of India released Telemedicine practice guidelines. Many states in the US are issuing emergency directives on this subject), and many payers, including CMS (published guidance on Medicare reimbursements for telemedicine visits), are making virtual consultations valid for payment. Many patients who have been hesitating to go through the virtual consultation are opting for them now. The time is right for the inflection point for telemedicine services.</p><p><strong>2. The long Duration and High Cost of Diagnostic Tests:</strong> &nbsp;Much has been said about the testing. The COVID-19 testing kits are too expensive and take too long for the results. It has seen great frugal innovation to make the testing kits inexpensive and faster. Many tests (RT-PCR to detect the present viral infection, serological tests to detect the antibodies) are being used. Molecular diagnosis is going to experience innovation in this area. Genomics could potentially play a big role&nbsp;&ldquo;CRISPR-based approach can detect the presence of viral genetic material relatively quickly&rdquo;?</p><p><strong>3. Effective Way of Social Distancing:</strong> &nbsp;There is really no effective way to ensure and enforce social distancing. Any democracy cannot implement strict rules as China did. In the areas of the world where space is a privilege, social distancing is just not in the culture and hence easily overlooked and ignored. Technologies such as geofencing could be used to effectively nudge people and encourage social distancing. Voice technology could be used very effectively for making many of the operations without touch. It&rsquo;s not a distant future where voice-based operations will be the default way of user experience replacing the touch-based user experience.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>4. Contact Tracing to Track Patients: </strong>&nbsp;Tracking the movement of people using GPS technology and mapping the movement, the intersection of the population will be extremely helpful to stem the spread of the virus. Many governments have been using some version of contact tracing technology. Health officials will be able to use the information to isolate people, warn the people with potential infections and identify and address specific hotspots. However, this is considered quite invasive, and personal privacy is highly compromised. Some groups, such as the Media lab at MIT, are working on a toolkit called Private kit that protects the privacy and security of users of the contact tracing app to control the spread of infectious diseases. More innovation is expected in this area.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>5. Home Monitoring and Effective Homecare of Isolated Patients:</strong> &nbsp;As the healthcare systems are getting overwhelmed, more patients (with less severe symptoms and recovering patients) are going to be at home, and the digital health technology tools will be critically needed along with telemedicine. Below are some tools (not a complete list) that we will need. Many of the individual tools exist and are in use. The seamless, integrated solution that provides many of these services will be eagerly awaited.</p><ul><li>&nbsp; Virtual home visits of doctors and caregivers - Telemedicine</li><li>&nbsp; Tracking health parameters (vital parameters, biomarkers) &ndash; IoT-based connected devices</li><li>&nbsp; Real-time monitoring with edge level analytics &ndash; remote patient monitoring</li><li>&nbsp; Medication adherence &ndash; gamification, IoT-based devices</li><li>&nbsp; Training for self-care, using medical devices, etc. &ndash; content repositories, mixed reality</li><li>&nbsp; Self-rehab (virtual guidance) &ndash; Mixed reality</li><li>&nbsp;Curated information about the illness, recovery, wellness, etc. &ndash; AI-based personalization</li></ul><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>6. Effective Social Isolation:</strong> &nbsp;As we are all experiencing it, most of us are under lockdown in our homes. Despite all the comforts of home, we are on edge, feeling anxious just by being disconnected from the outside world that is an integral part of our everyday life. For patients staying at home (especially with chronic illness), this takes a major toll on their state of mind. Mental well-being certainly affects the treatment efficacy. There is a renewed focus on mental health. Many tools and apps, such as Calm, Headspace, are available for the patients to work on their mental health and other tools for connecting to their social networks. Mixed reality could be used very effectively for visualization. We are in it for the long haul, and this is going to be critical.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>7. Overwhelmed Healthcare Systems: </strong>&nbsp;The healthcare workers are the frontline soldiers in this fight, and as time goes by, they are getting overwhelmed, acutely short on supplies, and, worse, infected themselves. The world is going to augment and replenish the manpower to tackle this crisis. This will mean bringing new staff on board quickly and training them for the necessary skillset. This overwhelming training need is on top of the already urgent need for constant training due to the high turnover of the staff. Companies and healthcare providers are going to urgently need to set up a holistic framework of e-learning to fulfil the various needs of training and education. A simple, effective training management platform along with innovative learning content (using gamification, mixed reality, hyper interactivity, etc.) will be the urgent need of the hour.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>8. Accelerated Drug Discovery: </strong>This crisis will act as a catalyst for exponential growth in accelerated drug discovery technology. Pharma companies are using big data driven transformation that uses integrated and advanced analytics to accelerate drug discovery. On-demand lab resource platforms on the cloud are transforming life science research and the drug discovery process. Combining genomic data along with biology and medicinal chemistry and providing massive computing resources are going to bring game-changing medicines faster to the patients.&nbsp;</p><h2 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 14pt;">The future of digital transformation in life sciences&nbsp;</span></h2><p style="text-align: justify;">With every citizen in the world and every area of healthcare being affected, as described earlier, these technological advances will most likely be adopted rapidly in healthcare delivery going forward:</p><p style="text-align: justify;">1. Digital Health: Telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, personalized wellness guidance, medication adherence, mental health, etc.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">2. Population Health: Monitoring social determinants, risk stratification and engaging the high-risk population early on to distribute the burden on the healthcare systems.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">3. Healthcare Education and E-Learning: Robust learning management framework for the urgent need of training for critical, high turnover healthcare workers and support teams in traditional and non-traditional (community) care delivery centers.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">4. Digital and Personalized Medicine: Personalized medicine based on genetic makeup of a person along with clinical information across the care continuum.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">5. Areas such as regulatory compliance, data privacy and security, and interoperability will go through major changes in policymaking and regulation.</p><p>I hope most of you working in healthcare technology will recognize these trends.</p><p><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><em>This <a href="">article</a> was contributed by our expert Sarika Phatak.</em></span></p><h3 style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 18pt;">Frequently Asked Questions Answered By Sarika Phatak:</span></h3><h2><span style="font-size: 12pt;">1. How is digital technology used in healthcare?</span></h2><p>During the COVID-19 pandemic, digital technology proved to be a valuable tool in healthcare. The general uses of digital technologies in healthcare are searching for medical knowledge resources, getting clinical support, monitoring the quality of care, tracking and monitoring the spread of diseases, and tracking the supplies of drugs and vaccines. Recently, wearable devices and mobile apps are being used to track the health parameters such as heart rates, exercise, sleep, etc.</p><p><br /><span style="font-size: 12pt;"><strong>2. How is digital transformation changing the healthcare industry?&nbsp;</strong></span></p><p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 12pt;">The digital transformation is helping healthcare providers make their services more efficient, help them understand the appropriate treatment needs and customize it as per the patient, provide cheaper, faster, and more effective solutions for diseases, and make the treatment accessible to the majority of the population.</span></p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong><span style="font-size: 12pt;">3. Can digital technologies improve health?&nbsp;</span></strong></p><p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 12pt;">Digital technologies can play a vital role in improving health. It has enhanced communication in many ways where the patients can access medical information and communicate with their healthcare providers online. It has also made receiving the lab results and booking appointments much easier than before. Now, healthcare professionals can access the patient's medical history, test results, and prescriptions whenever required. Besides these, high-tech monitoring has improved how doctors monitor their patients' health status, leading to more efficient treatments.</span></p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong><span style="font-size: 12pt;">4. What is a key driver for digital transformation in life sciences?&nbsp;</span></strong></p><p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 12pt;">One of the key drivers for digital transformation in life sciences is the need for Artificial Intelligence to provide better healthcare services. AI helps improve patient and clinical data collection for drug development. Also, mobile technologies associated with AI can also be used to improve patients' lives by reducing errors in the test results when conducted manually.&nbsp;</span></p><p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p>
KR Expert - Sarika Phatak

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