Healthcare 4.0 (In Real Life)

Martin Lindner
Published on October 11, 2017
<p>Data analytics, the Healthcare IoT (Internet of Things), and mobile patient platforms transform the everyday organization and delivery of care.<br><br>Photo: Olivier Hess</p>
<ul><li><b>Challenge: </b>Growing volumes of available data, declining storage and computing costs as well as increasing possibilities of data analytics are driving digital transformation in healthcare, with diverse disruptions expected in the next few years.</li><li><b>Solution: </b>Recent examples – such as health apps that enable a completely remote care journey – show that a massive second wave of digitalization is gaining traction.</li><li><b>Results:</b> Healthcare organizations should be aware of the ongoing digital transformation and consider how to translate their business needs into analytics approaches and new digitalization strategies.</li></ul>
<p>Big Data and machine learning, the Internet of Things as well as mobile patient platforms are starting to change every day healthcare practice. As a result, the industry is facing a second wave of digitalization, sometimes also referred to as “Healthcare 4.0”. Digitalization is no longer just a technical aspect – as in saving imaging and laboratory data in electronic medical records, for example. Instead, it now is shaping the management and design of complete healthcare processes and affecting healthcare providers’ business models. This was illustrated by specific examples presented at the Healthcare Business International 2017 conference in London.<sup>1<br></sup><br>The development is driven by the fact that, in a wide variety of areas, enormous amounts of data are now available, while at the same time storage and computing costs are decreasing drastically and artificial intelligence methods advance. In the health sector – which according to experts still has a significant digitalization deficit compared to other industries – this should lead to drastic changes in coming years.<sup>2</sup><br><br>“So far, digital and analytics has been more hype than reality in healthcare,” Nicolaus Henke, Senior Partner at McKinsey, remarked in a keynote presentation at the London conference.<sup>3</sup> “But it is definitely coming.” Possible applications range from more precise risk assessment by health insurance companies to predicting hospital readmissions for individual patients to the prognosis of complicated disease courses, such as septicemia. “Healthcare providers will increasingly need mathematicians to translate business needs into analytics language and capture the value of data,” says Henke. “This will lead to a new way of working.”</p>
Digital healthcare offers a new way of working.
<p>In recent years, digitalization has actually led to new models of healthcare in diagnostics. The number of teleradiological image interpretations by the outsourcing service provider Telemedicine Clinic alone increased from 100,000 in 2010 to about 450,000 in 2016, as CEO Alexander Böhmcker reported in London.<sup>4</sup> The company now generates reports for 120 hospitals in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia and in addition to locations in Europe, it also has a branch in Sydney where emergency examinations at night can be assessed there during normal daytime hours – an important prerequisite for high-quality and efficient radiological services according to Böhmcker.<br><br>In the future, remote and cross-border radiology may even become a new benchmark, said Böhmcker, because in telemedical networks, depending on the modality and body region, images can be sent at any time to a subspecialized radiologist with a high degree of expertise. Overall, the worldwide market for teleradiology is expected to reach an estimated volume of nearly 4 billion US dollars in 2019, according to Böhmcker.</p>
New models of digital healthcare generate digital health trends.
<p>Meanwhile, patient expectations and behavior patterns are also changing due to advancing digitalization. Janne-Olli Järvenpää, CEO of the Finnish service provider and hospital operator Mehiläinen, presented a health app in London which not only integrates users’ electronic medical records but also allows for appointments to be made with physicians and therapists and prescriptions to be filled at an online pharmacy, after which the medication is delivered to the patient’s home. Even virtual medical appointments can be held via the app; the fees are partially covered by insurance companies and employers and partially paid for privately.<sup>5</sup><br><br>This direct digital embedding of the app in existing healthcare structures is undoubtedly crucial for its success, says Järvenpää. Added to this is the generally strong affinity of Finnish society for new technologies. When the Mehiläinen app was released in summer 2016, it was downloaded more often in the first few weeks after its launch in Finland than Pokémon Go, the mobile game that was widely discussed in the media.</p>
Technologists evolve new digital healthcare trends, calling it healthcare 4.0.

By Martin Lindner

Martin Lindneris is an award-winning science writer based in Berlin, Germany. After completing his medical studies and a doctoral thesis in the history of medicine, he went into journalism. His articles have appeared in many major German and Swiss newspapers and magazines.