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October 27, 2021

The future of healthcare is digital

Sometimes, it takes an unexpected and unstoppable event to change the world. That’s because too often, humans get too stuck in their ways to want to change. Sometimes, just sometimes, we need a push.

For the healthcare industry to make better use of digital tools, that impetus was created by COVID. Even though healthcare had been moving towards it prior to the start of the pandemic, the pace was glacial.

With the advent of COVID-19, the need for new ways to connect doctors and patients exploded. A solution was needed to maintain distance between parties while still allowing patients to reach out for assistance and doctors to provide it.

That solution was to accelerate the digital transformation of the healthcare industry.

There are three main reasons why going digital was the natural path for the healthcare industry to take.

Digital technologies offer  the fastest way to deliver services  during a  pandemic and beyond

Healthcare practitioners could  use the resources most patients already had access to,to deliver services. These include internet-connected smartphones and cell phones, which could either run the apps created by healthcare providers or provide answers to medical questions through the use of USSD systems that are accessible by even the most basic of cell phones.

Apps released by existing healthcare providers could be updated with new COVID-related information quickly. They could also provide information that could  be used to self-diagnose, as well as offer directions to the user’s nearest hospital/doctor’s rooms/clinic.

Most importantly, existing technologies could  be adapted to provide remote healthcare, by connecting doctors with patients over video calls which doctors could use to diagnose, monitor, and record their patients’ symptoms. This also helped  doctors to minimise their exposure to the virus.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Boxfusion’s own Mpilo app was quickly updated with new functionalities like diagnostic information and contact-tracing that helped South African citizens get a handle on the pandemic better. And because Mpilo is cloud-based, updates were pushed down automatically, giving end-users access to information that was accurate to the minute.

It’s what patients want

Growth in digital medical consultation tools have been tremendous around the world, more so in countries that are already digital.

In South Africa, one of our big medical insurance companies saw a 35-fold increase in the adoption of their digital healthcare solutions during the pandemic, but this was dwarfed by the USA, where remote doctor consultations spiked  by anywhere from 50- to 175-fold in 2020 alone.

This massive growth in the popularity of digital healthcare solutions offers companies with ambitions to penetrate the healthcare sector plenty of opportunities. Demand will likely grow as the pandemic persists, and as government executes on its plans to provide access to quality healthcare for all  through initiatives like the NHI.

Better patient/doctor interactions

(Patients having)  Remote access to a doctor/ healthcare professional  has proven to be a very   appealing  feature ( appetising taste)  of the future of healthcare. Digital healthcare technologies are expected to improve , with future telemedicine capabilities on the horizon that go beyond consultations and into the realms of remote monitoring and even treatment.

It is likely that in the near future, all patients will have an electronic medical record which can be accessed by all healthcare providers.  Within the context of a digital healthcare ecosystem, the Electronic Health Record ( EHR) will ensure easy access to accurate medical data on patients, better personalised care by caregivers – and ultimately better patient outcomes.

Additionally, the  use  of consumer electronics that can measure parameters such as  heart rate and blood-oxygen levels in real time, as well as easy access to advanced healthcare services wherever we might be starts to look less like science fiction, and more like an inevitability.

A connected future

Digital healthcare solutions are here to stay, and they will improve  over time. Due  to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts in the digital healthcare space have accelerated far faster than they might have otherwise. So as damaging as the pandemic has been, there is certainly a silver lining.

Owing to efforts of companies like Boxfusion ( in the digital healthcare space), quality healthcare has reached more people during  a time they  needed it the most.