Healthcare has evolved rapidly in 2020, driven by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic which has accelerated the development of treatments, including vaccines. For 2021, technology is expected to feature prominently as it helps healthcare streamline on a monumental scale.
With the advent of technology in healthcare, stakeholders in the ecosystem are benefiting, from patients to technology developers to healthcare providers. Healthcare technology has the inherent ability to drive healthcare forward, make it accessible, improve interoperability, enhance patient experience through patient engagement solutions and reduce the overall cost in the long run by making it more efficient and data-driven.
Augmented and Virtual reality
Virtual and augmented realities are the technologies that will likely spur the healthcare industry towards unprecedented growth. In a nutshell, Virtual Reality (VR) is the application of computer technology to design a virtual environment that allows the user to experience a situation or scenario. Meanwhile, Augmented Reality (AR) lets the user to see the real-life environment overlaid with a digital augmentation. For healthcare, the use of AR and VR is helping to create profitable use cases to many diseases.
VR can help stroke patients whom require a robust therapy programme to assist with their motor functions. With the aid of the virtual, yet flexible environment delivered through VR, they will have the opportunity to modify their program as required. VR headsets can benefit patients with dementia and cognitive impairments.
AR’s features work well in critical areas such as surgery as doctors performing risky surgeries will be able to get a 3D view of challenging spots with the help of augmented reality. This can also be used in education where students are able to understand complicated through overlays, and doctors can quickly compare data to help them make a diagnosis.
Cybersecurity in itself is not new and its functionality within the healthcare space also involves the protection of electronic information and assets from unauthorised access, use and disclosure. In Singapore, the 2018 SingHealth data breach incident initiated by unidentified state actors led to personal particulars of 1.5 million SingHealth patients and records of outpatient dispensed medicines belonging to 160,000 patients were stolen. With an increase in cybersecurity incidents reported during COVID-19 as hackers worked to steal highly valued patient data amid the global lockdowns, this shows that is a global issue. Given the situation and the realization of the urgent need for cybersecurity, companies have invested large amounts of money on healthcare cybersecurity. In addition to having the necessary infrastructure, hospitals have also worked to ensure that their staff are ‘cyber-ready’ and practice good cybersecurity habits. In 2021, healthcare cybersecurity will continue to remain relevant in the new norm.
Data analytics and Interoperability
Various governments have announced vaccines to fight COVID-19. Hence, 2021 saw inoculation happening on a large scale across the globe. However, most vaccines had to be administered twice to be effective. Governments had to ensure that patients whom took the first shot had to return a few weeks later for their second dose. In this situation, data analytics and interoperability made a difference.
Data analytics allows healthcare workers to track whom has been vaccinated and will accurately record information provided by the patient ahead of their second dose. In some cases, interoperability will allow different institutions to access healthcare data across a common platform – which has happened in some countries. For instance, Singapore has introduced the National Electronic Health Records system but that is at a government level. On an organisational level, it will be some time yet as new technologies and data-sharing standards are needed to make it happen.