Digitalisation has provided various solutions in terms of ease and utility to many sectors and to practicing professionals within those industries like finance, transportation, agriculture etc. The potential benefits of information technology to clinical care is highlighted due to the rising health care costs, aging and increasingly complex patients. Also the rate of research knowledge being produced is outpacing the ability to actually assimilate this information into patient care. The most important reason is the increasing awareness of the risks of medical error. There is an urgent need for clinicians to reduce these risks, but IT Adoption slow in Clinical Environment which has become a major hindrance.
However health care providers and their health facilities are often accused of being late adopters of digitalisation i.e. the use of software technologies in their daily clinical environments.
One can debate on the various reasons why adoption has been slower.
Below are few of the reasons for slow adoption
Not Enough Customisation: The common reason often argued is that unlike other industries, where one-solution-fits-all approach has been successful with a few basic tweaks and customizations for e.g. Enterprise Resource Planning ERP systems are customized in various business processes like manufacturing, hospitality etc.but the requirement of seamlessly integrating medical records with Hospital Management systems is still a far cry from perfection. Even though solutions from software giants etc who create software as a product and those that implement these Software as a Service (SaaS) have still not been able to deep dive into customizing their existing solutions for the specialized needs of the healthcare industry. On the other side, Health care facilities are notoriously known for not spending enough time and money for quality customisations of these software products for their clinical requirements.
Skilled Health Technocrats: Another reason is the shortage of skilled Health Technocrats who bridge the gap between healthcare providers and the software engineers by being an intermediate and translating medical and engineering languages.
Testing and Incubation: The software testing period is often lengthy and may go from a few months to years which requires patience and increase in runway time for funds before they dry up. Often investors, entrepreneurs and startups run out of both. Many of these software’s require numerous certifications and follow stringent norms before being implemented in organised health facilities, which cause more fatigue levels resulting in many interesting projects to be shelved before they realize their full potential and are market-ready. This is also accounted to be one of the major reason for IT Adoption slow in Clinical Environment.
Ease of Software Usage: Digitalization is often perceived as cumbersome, with additional skill sets and training required to educate and understand these tools to utilize it to its total effect. In the 90s and early 2000s, the adoption of communication technologies was slower because of age gap, but with the advent and spread of smartphones with its simple to use interfaces and no instruction manual required to operate, doctors are no longer averse to use such powerful handheld devices in their everyday professional life. Simplifying user interfaces with a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) in these medical applications, is the key for increase in usage of applications among healthcare providers.
Attempt to bypass or eliminate Healthcare Providers: Instead of empowering the acumen and skills of the various healthcare providers, a particular school of thought among technocrats has grown with the advent of AI and Machine Learning , these technocrats wish to remove healthcare professions completely from the equation, perceiving them as a third wheel. This ideology arrives from the revolution and almost possibility of commercial driverless cars existing in the very near future. There is a limitation in this thought process as in evidence based healthcare, artificial intelligence requires various data points to diagnose and prescribe best treatments, also frequent studies show many of the markers are constantly changing or re-evaluated with newer and improved guidelines issued every year. This arrogance to eliminate experienced and educated healthcare professionals rather than empower them has wedged a gap among many healthcare professionals understanding of the future of technology and their role in it.
The good news is that in the past four to five years, there has been a noticeable increase of Health startup techs which comprise of engineers who enter the health space to identify pain points and issues that are faced by healthcare providers and provide digital solutions to them.
Also dedicated developer communities contributing to open source solutions in healthcare have emerged reducing the time and cost of creating applications from scratch.
Thus energies are mostly spent in customization to the requirements of healthcare providers and types of health facilities. The main requirement is that these software solutions have to undergo software trials like beta-testings in a clinical environment and require partnerships or incubation by health facilities and involvement with enthusiastic healthcare providers who are willing to invest their time and provide essential feedback for product developments.
Hans Albert Lewis – Founder and CEO of DocMode Health Technologies www.docmode.org
Digitalization in Critical Care
About the Author: Hans is a Health Technocrat with over 10 years experience in Health IT.
He has been involved in the Clinical Nutrition Project, www.clinicalnutritionproject.org which is an organisation that has developed an award winning, patented and free-to-use web-based application called “iNutrimon” www.inutrimon.com for assessing-planning-managing-monitoring the nutrition therapy through feed planning, be it oral, enteral or parenteral types of commercial or even kitchen feed for every patient throughout their stay in every unit of the health facility. The project is involved in training and education of healthcare professionals in Clinical Nutrition.