The in vitro diagnostics industry remains at the forefront of innovation in healthcare, delivering cutting edge tests which can allow patients to get diagnoses and therefore treatments at an earlier stage, monitor patients’ health away from a clinical setting, and provide information which can prevent disease altogether. The world of digital plays a key role in all of these processes.
A new Virgin Media and O2 Business report, “Harnessing the power of digital in the healthcare sector”, delves into the impact that digitising healthcare has had over previous years and also looks to how it will shape the landscape in future. A brief examination may give members the opportunity to view current innovative achievements, whilst eagerly anticipating what is to come over the next decade and how that will affect healthcare and diagnostics.
The pandemic can be seen as a watershed moment, not just in bringing IVDs into people’s homes and workplaces, but also for digital innovation. The report estimates that the pandemic accelerated digital adoption in the NHS by 4.6 years. Notably, the NHS App became the most downloaded free app in the UK and 88% of GP consultations were suddenly conducted online via a screen during this period. Digital is traditionally seen as the preserve of the young, however, all age populations adapted to these changes, with 45% of baby boomers stating they were willing to receive virtual healthcare.
This first global pandemic of the digital era had created a demand for digital tools, which, now adopted, has irreversibly become the norm. The report calls for these tools now to focus on how to solve the enormous backlog the NHS faces and, more long-term, how can they enable the shift to a more preventative healthcare model. There is still much work to be done to fully embrace digital healthcare in this area. The momentum, they claim, must be sustained as healthcare currently lags behind other industries on this front and can only be achieved through investment in resource, finance and behavioural change.
Remote care has the potential to be the most effective innovation in future – saving clinicians’ time, providing patients with greater convenience, and saving hospital beds. However, this also raises various challenges. It is paramount, firstly, that the elderly are not excluded as only 54% of over 75s use the internet regularly. NHS workers must also be empowered to use digital tools and investment in cybersecurity is necessary to avoid hacking attempts. The report estimates that trust expenditure on digital development needs to increase from 2% to 5% this year to adequately support digital innovation in the NHS.
The report emphasises the need for companies to remain digitally connected to people and tools, while ensuring patient data is securely protected. Companies can switch to next generation apps utilising a Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) to easily access patient data while providing the best software security. Moreover, it solves network issues, thus ensuring that staff are not dogged by time consuming network problems. In the realm of remote care, SD-WAN allows seamless connection with multiple clinical settings, as it is a cloud-based application, sending information back and forth securely to hasten digital processes. A WAN audit of your digital infrastructure can help to understand what could be improved.
Evidently, protecting your systems should be a major priority, as the healthcare industry is a primary target for malicious hackers. For instance, 81% of UK healthcare organisations have suffered a ransomware attack in the last year. Moving your security to a cloud-based system can improve security at low latency and simplify hitherto complex operations. While it may sound simple and routine, the importance of updating medical device software cannot be understated. 83% of medical devices are running on outdated software, which could leave them vulnerable to attacks.
Ensuring all of your processes are online will hugely benefit user experience and will help to speed up processes, such as booking tests or discovering your diagnosis. Mobile technology, outside of a hospital setting, is also increasingly favoured by patients and has tangible advantages. Research has shown that remote cardiac monitoring has reduced readmissions by 40%. These remote services, such as the Cumbria and Lancashire Telestroke Network cited in the report, means that millions can access urgent care, if needed, from home. This obviates the need for lengthy travel times, which could prove pivotal in urgent cases.