Health management carried out by citizens, professionals, and health administrations have gone through a turning point in recent years thanks to digital transformation. The World Health Organization (WHO) understands this fundamental right as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of infirmity or disease." The applications that digital technology already provides and will offer in the future make it easier for this concept to materialize in a comprehensive approach to Health.
Digital Health is sometimes thought of as a concept linked only to mere technological advances (electronic prescription, mobile applications, etc.). Still, its scope goes much further because it implies a model change. Silvia Vigara, an e-Health expert at Telefónica Tech, believes that the digitization we are witnessing is "a facilitator of the transformation we are experiencing: we are moving from reactive healthcare to a proactive one that focuses on prediction and prevention and seeks to be able to anticipate and minimize the impact on society."
This change of focus allows us to glimpse the scope that the transformation that has begun will have. Carlos Mateos, vice president of the Association of Innovators in e-Health (AIES), highlights how the culture of prevention is gradually making its way: "People are more aware of the importance of physical exercise and all kinds of devices not to cure, but to prevent." This trend has been observed for years, but it has worsened with the coronavirus pandemic, which has accelerated the implementation of innovative approaches linked to e-Health.
The Digital Health Strategy of the National Health System, prepared in 2021, recognizes that covid-19 has acted as an accelerator for e-Health. Crises, including health crises, present an opportunity because they force us to seek solutions in situations marked by uncertainty and risk, and sometimes in record time. Silvia Vigara highlights the global epidemic's impact on the clinical field. The adaptation that the professionals had to make facilitated the implementation of new work and care formulas. Among others, "connected care solutions (telehealth and remote monitoring), advanced analytics tools and artificial intelligence to diagnose, monitor and treat patients, implementation of e-triage systems or development of simulation models to optimize planning in hospital emergency services."
During the most challenging confinement stage, many citizens incorporated technology into their daily lives to monitor their state of Health or improve their activity levels. Covid-19, which put the Health of the entire population on the entire planet at stake, helped them "to be aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle," points out the e-Health expert from Telefónica Tech. The consequences They also reached the health administration. "The pandemic revealed the critical importance of having a solid public health system backed by a consistent data infrastructure that allows decisions to be made based on the real situation and the needs of society," says Vigara.
The disruptive nature of the e-Health sector lies in the fact that it brings benefits to all the actors involved in the management of assets as transcendental as personal and collective Health. The combination of genomics and artificial intelligence advances promotes a more predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory medicine that benefits the entire chain (professionals, patients, researchers, and administrations).
Two or three decades ago, no one would have thought that a computer could have anything to do with the response to a viral infection. However, the contribution of the IBM Summit supercomputer was crucial for accelerating the search for possible therapies against covid-19. In just two days, 8,000 active ingredients were analyzed, a task that would have taken specialists months or years to detect 77 active ingredients with the capacity to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from transmitting its genetic material to host cells. It is an example of the reach that e-Health already has in public Health.
Big data techniques allow the storage and processing of large amounts of precious data at all levels: research, clinical, or management; thanks to the processing of this data by artificial intelligence (AI), the way of looking for new drugs, the analysis of medical tests or the diagnosis of diseases has changed. "Artificial intelligence makes much more accurate diagnoses than the best of specialists, for example, in diagnostic imaging. It is occurring in many pathologies", points out Carlos Mateos.
Thus, a study from the University of Heidelberg (Germany), published in the Annals of Oncology, demonstrated, after analyzing 10,000 images of benign and cancerous moles, that a computer can be more efficient than the best professionals when diagnosing melanoma. The same goes for diabetic retinopathy. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the go-ahead for marketing devices based on AI algorithms that detect the disease.
Big data, AI, and other applications and technologies linked to digital Health handle millions of data. Its reliability is based on reaching conclusions with a minimum margin of error. Still, this volume of information has a critical point for the e-Health sector: cybersecurity. Protecting it is a priority objective, especially when personal data is handled. The privacy and absolute traceability of the information of each individual must be guaranteed: It is vital to comply at all times with current legislation and regulations, and ensure the maintenance of the highest security standards, to avoid information leaks or the manipulation of data. Data by third parties.
The second challenge facing digital health security is cyber threats. "They are unavoidable," assures the Telefónica Tech specialist, "so it is essential also to have a prevention, detection, and appropriate response system to reduce attacks, protect digital health services and thus guarantee the cyber-resilience of the service."
The advantages of digital Health are unquestionable: it reduces costs and allows care to be provided to populations with more difficult access to many services. Digital Health is equitable and makes universal access to health care effective. However, it runs into a stumbling block: the digital gap that still exists between the new generations and the older population. Three fundamental aspects must be worked on to save it and advance digital inclusion. First is digital skills, "the ability to use digital devices such as computers or smartphones." The second key aspect is connectivity and internet access, and the third is "accessibility, related to the design of services that meet the needs of all people who can use them, including those who depend on assistive technologies to access services." digital."
The future of healthcare will be digital; that's a fact. But being digital does not mean, in any way, being less human. On the contrary: the digital transformation in Health is increasingly in the direction of bringing more convenience to the work of health professionals for the well-being and quality of care for patients.
Clinical mobility of the significant impacts of the digital transformation in Health was the socalled clinical mobility. Clinical mobility talks about using mobile devices, such as computers, tablets, and smartphones, by health professionals on the front line.
Using mobile devices combined with intelligent technologies led hospitals to improve workflow and patient safety, reduce operating costs, facilitate communication between teams, and facilitate access to data, which is now available in real-time and in line.
According to the study "Clinical Mobility and Digitalization in Latin America," 72% of hospitals in Latin America improved their care thanks to the clinical mobility provided by the digital transformation in Health. The same study indicates that the current impact of mobile technology in hospitals in the region reduced operating costs by 55% and improved patient safety by 61%. The tendency is for these numbers to grow as health institutions adapt to new technologies.
According to specialists, global health technology trends are surprising. These must reach more and more and modify how we think about care as a human beings.
In this way, health establishments that start investing in this segment earlier will have an easier time achieving positive results in the future once they will differentiate themselves from the competition and gain user preference. According to these specialists, check the leading technologies to see the digital transformation process in Health.
The digital transformation of the health sector also has an essential economic variable, to the point that some experts perceive it as a lifeline for the sustainability of free and universal health systems, such as the Spanish one. The resources needed to guarantee this provision are increasing due to demographic pressure and population aging.
The innovations provided by digital Health make the management of available resources more efficiently. Telemedicine, or the digitization of healthcare processes, is a good example, as is remote monitoring: It allows real-time monitoring of patients in the hospital and at home, combining data from connected biosensors, health applications, and personal health records; ehealth "offers better quality care, facilitating the work of professionals with the greatest possible budgetary efficiency."
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