Technology and the Internet of Things hold great promise to improve our health and well-being. Internet-connected infusion pumps, imaging machines, blood-glucose sensors, and myriad more devices, can automatically share valuable data to a person’s electronic health record. We can expect to see network-connected healthcare aides playing an ever-greater role in delivering healthcare. Smart beds that automatically detect if they’re occupied—or if a patient has gone walkabout—and can track the quality of the patient’s sleep. Wearables and implants that measure a patient’s vital statistics, continuously log data and report, in real-time, any abnormalities to the appropriate clinical staff.
We’re not talking some far distant future here—a report last year from IDC indicated that enterprise mobility will have penetrated over 80% of MEA healthcare organizations by 2017, with over a third of organizations having already deployed corporate smart devices. Hospitals in the region are already increasingly looking to technology solutions to proactively advance patient care and improve outcomes.
Countries in the region, especially in the GCC, are making transformation of healthcare services a key priority as they look to improve the well-being of their citizens. We are seeing major initiatives to leverage technology to improve healthcare delivery in the region, such as in the United Arab Emirates, which has included providing a world-class healthcare system in its UAE Vision 2021 strategy. Likewise, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made improving healthcare delivery a key plank of its Vision 2030.
Healthcare organizations here in my region also understand that technology is a tool for driving efficiency and streamlining operations as well as improving patient outcomes. Dr. Sulaiman Habib Medical Group (HMG), one of the largest providers of comprehensive healthcare services in the MENA region, recently unveiled its Al Suwaidi Hospital in Saudi Arabia, a digital medical facility that is the first of its kind in the Middle East.
A cloud-based technology infrastructure enables the hospital to be a fully-paperless operation, and multimedia connectivity between diverse departments ensures that the time taken for reporting and maintaining records is greatly reduced. This enables physicians to focus on more patients and seamlessly transfer cases to other departments, laboratories, or the billing section. It also allows the hospital to maintain digital records, which are useful in generating patient medical histories, as well as meet regulatory requirements. Together with Avaya, HMG is delivering a fully digital patient experience, with real-time collaboration for physicians, laboratories, and other components of the healthcare delivery process.
While HMG can rightly claim to be a global leader in healthcare technology, we are seeing other healthcare providers increasingly adopting technology solutions here. Networked devices are prevalent in hospitals already, with a growing number of nurses and doctors having transitioned away from clipboards and paper to Wi-Fi-enabled communications devices and tablet computers.
Technology in healthcare does bring unique challenges. The highest standards must be met for patient security and safety at all times, with patients needing to have absolute confidence that their data is safe. Therefore, creating applications that can enhance the patient experience and improve the healthcare operator’s efficiency can be more challenging than in other industries.
Adding to those challenges: healthcare operators’ patients are also other companies’ customers and employees—and have correspondingly high expectations of the experience they are looking to receive. People today are well aware of what good technology experiences look like and feel like—so why wouldn’t they expect to receive those good experiences from their healthcare provider.
Many of us will be all too familiar with this scenario: you have to attend a hospital’s emergency room for a medical crisis. In a high-stress time you will likely have to answer questions about medical history, insurance details, and so on before you can be seen by an attending care practitioner. That practitioner will then refer you to a physician or other medical staff member—at which point you will likely have to give your details again!
While forward-thinking organizations like HMG are addressing these challenges, other healthcare organizations need to enter the digital era. Companies today don’t want to risk losing customers as a result of a bad experience—and healthcare providers can’t afford to think differently.
The reality is that traditional business communications have failed to keep pace with consumer-focused technological devices. The simplicity, built-in intelligence, and sophistication of today’s devices have taught consumers that it’s not difficult to have satisfying, tailored experiences—every time. If healthcare providers want to improve our well-being, they need to give us the experiences we want.
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