How technology can improve access to healthcare

By Atif Al Braiki, Chief Executive Officer, Malaffi
14 February 2022

Technology is driving major changes in many aspects of healthcare, creating new expectations that the industry must strive to meet. Not only does it offer the potential for better patient experiences, but it gives us a wider opportunity to make meaningful enhancements to our social purpose and environmental sustainability obligations.

This includes the drive toward social equality and equal access to healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rise of telehealth, with the market size expected to grow from $62.45bn in 2020 to $475.50bn by 2026. Combined with the growth of affordable wearable devices, technology introduces far better access to healthcare for those in developing countries.

However, these opportunities come with several important questions. How can governments develop a financially sustainable model for these innovations? Can the healthcare sector overcome the challenges that go beyond the technology – such as workforce/skills shortages? Who pays for these new services?

To answer the last question, arguably in healthcare it’s easier than in some other sectors to demonstrate purpose and shared beliefs. Technology can make health more equitable and can help to ensure resources are used appropriately and fairly.

Nevertheless, healthcare is complex, and any disruption will go beyond technology alone. Changing policy is key; we need to engage payers and providers, ensure policy makers are providing better access and better-quality care. Technological innovation is exciting, but we should keep in mind that it is just one element of a very complicated equation. There are lots of stakeholders involved and the economics of who is paying and how policies evolve is complex.

These are difficult equations to solve, but the power of data allows us to formulate evidence-based decisions to drive meaningful change. For example, using artificial intelligence (AI) to mine big data has several major beneficial impacts. It improves insights on population health data, especially when combined with the right health risk management platform.

Connected healthcare and improved interoperability also offer substantial cost containment benefits. This is a critical component of any innovation model, seeing as spending is growing amid the widespread move to integrated models of care. Digital transformation has a major role to play in this process – especially related to the over-consumption of healthcare.

In Abu Dhabi, Malaffi’s Health Information Exchange (HIE) covers one piece of this puzzle, with almost the entire sector now connected to a centralized database in less than three years. To witness how an HIE system takes on a life of its own by the limitless use cases on the level of the clinician, providers and the healthcare system is inspiring – along with how it unlocks opportunities for collaboration across the medical and pharmaceutical sector, to innovate drugs and provide new solutions.

But what else can we put in place to improve coordination between different systems? How can we better share data to both widen and improve resources further?

This is where digital can really improve healthcare. The healthcare workforce is over capacity and burdened by increasing costs. We must therefore look at what tasks can be automated and what administrative burdens can be reduced by technology.

The pandemic has demonstrated the power of data for making evidence-based decisions to manage public health and safety. The industry will increasingly work on solutions that improve our preparedness to tackle future challenges. Advanced AI analytics and aggregated data will allow the practice of personalised and value-based medicine, enabling more cost-efficient healthcare systems, improved access to care and healthier populations.

It’s an exciting future and will surely be a major talking point at HIMSS22. I look forward to joining those discussions.

This article was published on HIMSS and can be found here.

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