There is a lot of potential for digitalization for the majority of the companies in the healthcare industry, which has not yet been tapped into. At the same time, these companies see themselves being confronted with massive changes and innovations. For some time now, these issues have no longer only been driven by small, innovative start-up companies. Tech giants like Amazon, Google and Apple have also discovered the potential and the opportunities in the healthcare industry for themselves, which is not by chance.
An increasing number of companies have been looking at the healthcare sector – and not just since the the joint venture “Haven” by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway und JPMorgan Chase. The opportunities coming from digitalization are fueling the dynamic healthcare market. The maturing smartphones and wearable technologies make it possible for patients to monitor their own health and send the data to their doctors. By transmitting blood pressure, body fat and heart readings, the smartphone can contribute to checking and improving an individual’s health. Improved communication between doctors and patients could provide additional motivation for the increasingly popular video appointments which allow patients’ and doctors’ computers to connect directly with each other via a server. The possibilities – even if the Corona pandemic was an accelerator here – have not even begun to approach their limits.
Apple and Stanford are collaborating on using smartphones to measure blood sugar levels. In contrast, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is focusing on the field of artificial intelligence. In future, data collected by mobile devices should help to provide sound diagnoses and estimates of risks in connection with the descriptions of symptoms – and of course it should indicate ideal treatment options by integrating data from other patients. In turn, Stanford University is using Tensorflow (Google’s platform for machine learning) to train an algorithm that can already detect skin cancer with 91 per cent precision. By doing this, technology is supporting doctors in diagnosing illnesses. Considering that early detection is the best means of treating skin cancer, this technology may be a decisive step in combating the disease.
In contrast, Facebook has already been concentrating on mental health for some time. With the help of artificial intelligence, the company is monitoring the online behaviour of its users, such as pictures posted on Facebook or Instagram. This should detect indicators for depression and prevent potential suicides.
Patients are getting an increasing amount of information from the Internet. This trend is not only continuing, but is also increasing in demand as a massive increase in online searches demonstrates. Companies in the healthcare industry that have not invested decisively in their presence on the Internet and their digital visibility are, therefore, running the risk of being left behind by their digital competition.
Extraction and structuring of data from data warehouses will become increasingly important in the future. This issue carries great meaning for the healthcare industry, in particular, with its large number of systems for medical practices. Key figures can be detected by those systems, and the information can be linked together better.
There are hardly any limitations on the possibilities of data warehouses. In case of an emergency, pace makers or insulin pumps could be operated by remote control in future. Health insurance bonus programmes could be connected with health apps or data from fitness studios, and various doctors could mutually ensure a more-detailed patient history for individual patient illnesses with the help of block-chain technology. People in Estonia are already relying on the advantages that block-chain technology can provide. Patient data will be secured and encrypted by a central portal. Doctors and hospitals can then access the data and send digital prescriptions to pharmacies.
The advantages from the potential for improved human health should be exploited, and the challenges along the way should be addressed. This includes clarifying data protection issues, constructing a reliable IT infrastructure and transparent and responsible actions towards the public. Concerns about monitoring “by Big Brother” are frequently expressed. If these hurdles can be crossed, new technological possibilities will provide advantages not just for companies, but also, above all, for each individual patient.
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