Snippet: These days, very few industries are left untouched by the digital age. One highly regulated industry that could benefit much more than it has so far by partnering with tech companies is healthcare.

These days, it would be difficult to find even one industry untouched by the digital age. In the payments industry, for example, we see new developments and technologies being launched every day, from mobile wallets and instant payments to push-based authentication and open banking.

One highly regulated industry that could benefit much more than it has so far by partnering with tech companies is healthcare. The healthcare systems of many countries have been under a lot of pressure lately – even those in wealthy countries like Germany, where I live. They must find ways to finance the rising demand for care at affordable rates, while enhancing the overall quality of the system and raising patient satisfaction. Add to the mix regulations at state level, political gamesmanship, and country-specific demographic pressures, and you have a struggling industry, if not in disarray, beset with doom and gloom predictions of decline.

I believe that digitalization holds one answer to these challenges, and can and will drastically improve how doctors work and patients receive treatment. Personally, I know many doctors who are drowning in paperwork. And I mean literal paperwork, which seems unthinkable today, but the paper age is still going strong in the healthcare industry. For example, when visiting a doctor for the first time, you have to outline your full medical history by filling out a paper form. At least that’s still the case in Germany. An electronic health card is available, but it only stores basic patient information. The Electronic Health Record (EHR) is still being implemented in Germany, but it is successfully being used in Sweden, where the first EHR was introduced in 2012. (My colleagues in North America tell me that EHR adoption is approaching 100% in the USA and 93.8% in Canada.)

Fortunately, the healthcare industry is experiencing an increase in new digital value propositions for both doctors and patients. At last year’s Gartner Symposium health was a big topic, and the re:publica conference featured a re:health track. One of the drivers for the digitization of healthcare is start-ups, and the big four tech companies (of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple fame) will also play a major role in transforming the industry. Business Insider Intelligence explored the key strengths and offerings these tech giants will bring to the healthcare industry. Together, they have a significant wealth of experience in data management and analysis, which they can use to develop tools and solutions for the industry as a whole.

Future trends in digital health

When defining future trends in the digital transformation of healthcare, we must start with EHRs. According to Gartner, EHRs have, in recent years, been the single largest IT investment that health delivery organizations have made. But, as we said, EHRs are the starting point, not the endgame.

In its simplest form, an EHR is a digital version of a patient record. Its main value, however, lies in the fact that additional data, for example, from health trackers, vaccination status and X-rays, can be added to it. This data can then be shared between all the participants in a patient’s medical journey – doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and pharmacies, to name a few. The advantage is obvious – it provides a much broader patient overview, meaning that the patient gets more accurate, and hence safer, care. And like everything these days, it is the data that is far more valuable than the EHR system itself. The data will push unprecedented level of academic research and further innovations in the following fields.

  • Telemedicine: Permanent brick-and-mortar care facilities will become less prevalent, and instead health advice will be delivered via digital means such as video chats and mobile applications. At its extreme, this virtual care will take place through algorithmic medicine and virtual physicians powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that, in some cases, may eventually not involve a “real” physician at all.
  • Wearables: We have been using wearables for some time now. How long have you been relying on your smart watch to monitor your heart rates, fitness level, and even check your blood pressure? The rise of wearable technology has major implications for healthcare. Health-focused wearables allow us to share information in real-time with providers, which is a key element in developing EHRs and telemedicine.
  • Big data for health and AI: Now, what do you do with all the data that has been collected? These massive data sets need to be analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, and correlations. These results will be used to improve the quality of health care provided. Based on big data and data analytics, AI and machine learning will influence diagnosis and patient. One prominent example of this topic is IBM Watson.

All these trends, supported by EHRs, lead to digitally engaged patients; patients who can play a more active and self-aware role in their treatment, and that gives them more control over their personal health data.

The flipside

With any new development, nothing is ever as rosy as the pictures in the prospectus. Healthcare services and health data are extremely personal, and patients have every right to expect that their information will be stored securely, and access only granted with their permission. To combat any data breaches (of which we have seen too many), EHR developers are using blockchain technology and encryption.

Another problem that must be solved is how patients give consent for their health data to be accessed. Regulators will have to define standards and terms of use that are at least as strict as in the financial sector, for example, strong customer authentication under the revised payment services directive. Consent in the realm of medical care goes far beyond single transaction authorization. In this case, we are talking about multiple types of complex data that a number of different audiences need access to. An interesting additional complication involves situations where a patient is unable to given consent, for example, after an accident. This is where tokenization will play a key role.

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Melanie Maier


Melanie is focused on helping financial institutions and enterprises achieve compliance through strong authentication and state-of-the-art app security while simultaneously enabling exciting new digital experiences. She is also country ambassador (Germany) for the European Women Payments Network, where she helps to grow the network in order to bring more female voices and diversity to the payment industry.

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