Importance of Digital Transformation in Healthcare
Published on 6/11/2018

Digital Transformation is a trend that can be materialized when organizations can rethink business processes. In the simplest terms, DT is all about using various digital technologies, so it helps the customer (in this case, the patient) lead a better life. The need of the patient becomes the focal point of the business. So you have to put their needs at the center and come out with different ways to make their lives better. Healthcare organizations might be intimidated by the vast amounts of data they’ll have to deal with, as the data that flows through their systems is unstructured mainly and unmanaged. However, several organizations have come forward and attempted to maneuver and innovate by using the latest technologies and methodologies to sift through this data. DT revolutionizes healthcare in such vital ways that it touches everything, right from patient registration to intelligent diagnosis, even in coming up with self-care tools. The entire healthcare industry has transformed and metamorphosed into something magical; value-based care and positive outcomes have become the bedrock in the next-gen healthcare. Patients have become active participants in their health activities; they are no longer passive individuals but play a full role by demanding involvement through knowledge sharing and responsibility.  Here are six ways in which it can revolutionize the industry: 

1. Genomics
The study of genomic research has come a long way, and this wave started with the discovery of DNA more than a century ago. The advances in technology and computers have helped in sequencing genomes faster and cost-effectively. This has enabled scientists to understand a person’s genetic profile minutely and administer treatments that could lead to better cures. Doctors, clinicians, and specialists have started using genomic sequencing to reach a better diagnosis and treat their patients much more accurately. An increase in technology and computing power has made it easier for scientists to experience the true capability of human DNA, paving the way for a complete and entirely personalized form of testing and treatment. As the therapy provided is personalized, this could cover a vast range of diseases and offer enhanced therapies.

2. Big Data Used in Medicine
The Healthcare industry is one of the fields where you can use big data to its maximum potential. It can rival trends that were not possible in the past, so you can say Big Data is all about delivering Big Insights. Extensive data analysis has evolved to be a significant boon, both for managing the health of the patient and for the business angle of healthcare organizations. DNA analysis tests and data collected from wearable medical equipment have made a detailed and comparative study of the patient, learned about their lifestyles, and that of similar patients to develop treatment strategies.
Big data plays heavily in solving the limitations that the healthcare industry faces. The medical and pharmaceutical fields can gain a lot when they understand the biology of diseases. It is possible to do this with the help of Big Data because Big Data can collect all the data and information on what constitutes a disease - right from DNA, proteins, and metabolites to organs, organisms, cells, tissues, and ecosystems. And by solving the limitations, big data can help build better health profiles and predictive models around patients to diagnose better and treat diseases.

3. Organs on Chips
Doctors and patients keep their fingers crossed when they try new treatments because they only get results after applying them. How about having electronic sensors to measure different kinds of treatment possibilities at the cellular level. The best possible treatment would then be chosen and then administered to the patient. This kind of trend was made possible by advancements in DNA sequencing and in-depth stem cell research.
Conceptual Schematic of a Human-on-a-chip

Conceptual Schematic of a Human-on-a-chip

To administer treatments by understanding the diseases at the cellular level can be possible with digital transformation. This futuristic treatment is done through tiny technology in the form of chips to ensure the patients get only safe drugs. The patient no longer has to be the testing ground for experimental drugs anymore. And this is an incredible achievement because the human body is the most complex one of nature’s creations.

4. Genetic Engineering
Genetic engineering and the use of genetically modified viruses can fight diseases, and this trend is becoming increasingly common. For example, genetically modified mosquitoes are being created and deployed to fight against diseases like Zika and malaria. However, using genetic engineering using human DNA is highly controversial, and there are many boundaries to consider while doing the testing.

5. Telemedicine
It could be a dream come true if doctors could treat patients living in remote villages. And it could be a dream come true for patients to get the best possible treatment at a fraction of a cost. Now the world’s poorest people can also get the same kind of medical treatment as a rich person would. This was possible through Telemedicine. The success of Telemedicine lies in DT and how the internet has been able to penetrate the remotest of villages. According to data from International Telecommunications Union, an agency of the United Nations, “3.2 billion people use the Internet globally, and out of this, about 2 billion are from developing countries”. In 2000 there were 738 million mobile subscriptions worldwide. At present, it stands at 7 billion. Here are web applications that people can download to monitor their health, and based on the alerts and notifications from these apps, they can get better health care and on time. And that’s not all. These apps can help people reduce hospital visits, a great thing because doctors can focus on people requiring hospitalization. The medical industry has gone through tremendous changes that include accurate and timely healthcare for all.

6. 3D Bioprinting
An X-ray doesn’t give you an accurate picture. Specific areas can be distorted, while certain areas can be highlighted as unnecessary. This was because doctors were looking at 2D images. Most of the surgeries conducted in the past were based on assumptions and guesswork. But with virtual reality, it is possible to understand the organs and their positioning in alarming clarity and three-dimensional terms. This is known as 3D bioprinting.
3D Bioprinting Process

3D Bioprinting Process

It is a process involving the three-dimensional printing of cells and tissue, and organs by layering (3D gel, which is a dissolvable hydrogel) cells, biologic scaffolds, and growth factors accurately. This allows the doctors to look into the patient’s body before actually doing the surgery to be better prepared to face the challenges that are likely to arise during the actual procedure. Doctors can confront the unknown even before they make the first incision. 3D bioprinting can play a crucial role in personalized medicine, and there are different methods used in this technique - acoustic bioprinting, inkjet-based bioprinting, extrusion-based bioprinting, and laser-based bioprinting.

Healthcare companies from around the world are turning digital technologies into strategic assets. A few of the ambitious ones are bridging digital IT and legacy by indulging in complex systems transformations. They are performing their experiments to make the best of data and boost the speed of R&D. At the digital rate transformation is moving now, we can rightly assume that the patient will be sitting in the driver’s seat soon enough, and they are likely to receive the best treatment at reduced costs, thereby increasing life expectancy too.

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