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Health + Tech | Why more hospitals are going digital globally

Published:Sunday | April 25, 2021 | 12:16 AM

Jamaica began its hospital digitisation journey less than a decade ago with the University Hospital of the West Indies. At that time, they saw the economic and efficiency benefits of such a move. Increasingly, more hospitals worldwide have been on a similar journey, and the ones that have gone fully digital have been investing more to improve how they offer services to patients and other clients.

LEK Consulting conducted a survey among more than 400 hospital executives in the Asia Pacific region. The survey identified trends that are defining these hospitals’ priorities and how they have adapted during COVID-19. They found, among other things, that the hospitals plan to increase their digitisation spending in the next three years to reduce medical errors and increase patient satisfaction. Those are only a few of the benefits of digitsation. There are many others.

The health information management system available in Jamaica provides hospitals with several areas in which they can make improvements by digitising services – both clinical and administrative. Along administrative lines, for example, logistical matters such as inventory management can be easily handled by the same software that handles clinical matters, including doctors’ notes and patient records.

Digitising inventory management is an easy and affordable way – when you calculate the cost of loss due to expired and ‘lost’ inventory – to ensure that the facility is always on target with its needs and ordering schedule. It is a way to track how much is coming in versus how much is going out to ensure that supply stays constant, inventory doesn’t expire, low-demand drugs and other items are ordered in smaller quantities and high-demand ones in larger quantities. A proper inventory-management system can result in an easy flow, increased efficiency, lower costs, and improved access. Already, you can easily see how such a software can save money while improving systems for the facility.

DIGITISED SYSTEM

Health workers and patients also stand to benefit from a digitised hospital system, which can make patient registration for example, seamless. Health records have also always been a sticking point for Jamaica, and with a digitised system, it is not only possible to access them easily, but there will be greater continuity, more efficiency, which will result in better patient care overall. With digitisation, areas such as pharmacy, laboratory, radiology, admission and discharge, bed management, and others would make it a seamless experience for the patient and a more efficient and effective process for the caregiver. In health, continuity is key to patient care, and digitisation affords hospitals this.

Digitised health is becoming more popular around the world as administrators see the economic value and patients demand better and more intimate care and service.

According to statista.com, “In 2019, the global digital market was worth US$106 billion. With an expected compound annual growth rate of 28.5 per cent from 2020 to 2026, the digital health market should see a sixfold increase. By 2026, the digital health market will amount to nearly US$640 billion.”

Healthcare is going through a digital paradigm shift that is expected to continue for years to come. The increase in hospitalisations, in Jamaica’s case, largely for ailments like non-communicable diseases, has forced – and will continue to force – a rethink in how services are delivered and patients are cared for.

According to Deloitte, “With ageing infrastructure in some countries and increased demand for more beds in others, hospital executives and governments should consider rethinking how to optimise inpatient and outpatient settings and integrate digital technologies into traditional hospital services to truly create a health system without walls.”

This is what digitisation will help us to achieve, and it has been recognised worldwide as we have seen efforts to increase the use of digitised systems and various applications, which would allow ease of healthcare access without time and place restrictions. We face the same issues in Jamaica, and so our journey should also focus on how to improve efficiency while not compromising on care. Digitisation of hospital systems is the key to achieving this.

- Doug Halsall is chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems Limited. Send feedback to doug.halsall@gmail.com.