Digitalization in Healthcare. Putting the cart way before the horse or anticipating a crucial transformation of the industry.
Reflections and thoughts after visiting DMEA, Berlin.
By no means am I attempting to question the need of going digital in healthcare, especially when it comes to storing, sharing, tracking, and analyzing patient data with lifetime health problems, diagnoses and treatments for the sake of making health care more efficient, predictive, and precise. However, there is an enormous variety of proposed solutions, standalone concepts, and emerging technologies, along with fund raising hype and security concerns. In my opinion, this makes the anticipated end consumers’ (physicians and hospital IT administrators) enablement and decision-making process somewhat troublesome. Considering nurses and midwives (likely to be the majority end-users) expected to advantage new systems and processes, the task of seamless implementation of a new device or system could become even more challenging. Therefore, I believe it is necessary to get hospital personnel involved in the requirements definition phase to ensure a solution provider is not inventing a fifth wheel and not moving too fast with its noble innovation impulse.
The DMEA, Europe’s largest event for the health IT industry—the proven mixture of trade fair, congress, advanced training and numerous networking events Auriga visited this April—was a great opportunity to get calibrated insight into how the entire healthcare supply chain is mapped in all digital areas, and how the abovementioned conservative buyers’ enablement challenges are being addressed.
First of all, I must say that the Berlin ExpoCenter facility offered an ideal exhibition area and logistics—neither so large that you wear out the soles of your shoes trying to find what you’re looking for, nor so small that you feel bored on the second day. Another positive observation was the number of discussion and knowledge sharing formats available for visitors and exhibitors, helping to keep everyone curious and involved through all three days. Although the trade fair was aiming German healthcare market players’ needs with local industry specifics, I predict that it will become more international in time.
Digitalization in healthcare obviously has many sides and implementation approaches, be it automating manual tasks to improve consistency and free up time for staff to provide patient care, enhancing connectivity between patients and clinicians, or allowing real-time management of documentary assets and flows. In any case, it comes to improving well-known processes that caregivers are used to, appreciating their user experience perspective and overcoming natural resistance to change which takes time and training effort.
There are three types of hospitals in Germany: 55% are public run by local or federal state authorities, 7% are private, and 38% are voluntary charitable hospitals run by churches or the Red Cross. Other countries generally have similar market segmentation but with different proportions of each type. Due to different budgeting and personnel related constraints, the three segments are likely to have different capabilities and willingness to adopt digitalization, as their decision makers constantly have to balance costs and efficiency, juggling priorities.
Some think the healthcare world is now one of consumerism, so the healthcare industry’s vision should be for a fully digitized patient journey, fully or partially following Amazon or Uber examples. However, I think we need to ask healthcare givers for their professional advice first. While having options to return goods on Amazon, get refunds, and try other online shops, or cancel your taxi and change destination, you would not act yourself like an original consumer experiencing health problems because professional accountability, accountability for your life, is the game changer. We simply want to trust therapists, clinicians, and nurses; therefore, probably digitalization in healthcare is mostly about making their work easier and more comfortable, rather than overestimating patient’s capabilities to control their own healthcare.
It goes without saying digitalization in healthcare is inevitable, and I saw some exciting examples of its real life implementation when talking to exhibitors on DMEA, but I still feel there is a lack of focus and sober analysis of the market demand.
Auriga’s main concern is medical device and healthcare systems software, its process-oriented development, and comprehensive testing and support (with over 50 successful projects in portfolio including digitalization). Nevertheless, as industry professionals, we explore and research respective market requirements to generate our visions and carefully forecast the likely technology and service needs, that healthcare providers and vendors will be experiencing soon. Regardless of the complexity of a task Auriga gets to work on, we strive to understand its technical and business background along with discovering dependencies and intersections, which is important to ensure the best possible approach and solution.
Our professional curiosity, passion for new knowledge acquisition and aspiration to personally interact with healthcare industry practitioners will encourage us to come to DMEA again next year. I know a very cozy hotel to stay in nearby …will be happy to recommend.