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General Outlook

The outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 has taken a toll on the global healthcare industry, workforce, infrastructure, and supply chain. Having witnessed the worldwide hysteria, deaths of hundreds of thousands, and nations’ mental health crises, the industry has been given no choice but to adjust to the new reality. 

Healthcare providers faced increasing challenges of managing isolation, increased anxiety, addressing the emotional and physical needs of patients, and adapting to changes in healthcare policy and practice. Hospitals became places with high risks, therefore, it made sense for patients to stay at home and use alternative ways of medical consultation such as telehealth applications. Solely in March 2019, the number of American patients who installed telehealth applications increased by 154% compared to March 2019. After its climax, the number of users reached 200 million people. The primary reason for such popularity of digital healthcare became an urgent need for social distancing. The second - is its cost-effectiveness.

For millions of healthcare consumers, the cost to receive their care has risen significantly and irrevocably. The numbers speak for themselves: in 2019, the national healthcare expenditure (NHE) increased by 4.6% to $3.9 trillion, forming 17.7% of GDP in the US. By 2028, the NHE is expected to reach 19.7%.

Without a doubt, technology will continue playing a key role in the development of the healthcare industry

This white paper analyzes the benefits of digital transformation in healthcare, technologies that are actively used in it, current risks healthcare providers are exposed to, dominant players, and trends in the industry.





Global Healthcare Sphere Issues in 2022

#1 Telehealth Explosion

Pandemic-induced telehealth boom grew upon as both patients and providers were looking for ways to safely access and deliver healthcare. According to McKinsey & Company, in April 2020, telehealth utilization for office visits and outpatient care was 78 times higher in comparison to February 2020. 

In the epoch of the pandemic, telehealth offered a bridge between consumers and providers that were able to meet all regulatory changes and enable much better access and reimbursement. As of July 2021, telehealth usage has ballasted at levels 38 times higher than before the pandemic outbreak. Doctors of all specialties have seen a rise in telehealth visits from 13% to 17%. Correspondingly, investment in virtual care and telehealth also increased 3 times with the level of venture capital in 2020, if compared to 2017.

By 2027, the telehealth market size is expected to reach $559.52 billion with a CAGR of 25.2%. The key factors that impact such rapid growth include:

  • Established positive effects of telemedicine health control;
  • Fast growth in medical expenses for government and private fields;
  • Urgent need for effective need prevention and treatment of COVID-19;
  • Significant physiological impact on patients of the pandemic;
  • A shift to consumer-oriented delivery of medical treatment.
The rising demand for instant counseling, lack of doctors, social distancing, and huge workloads of medical centers have accelerated the adoption of telemedicine. According to Medical Economics, 83% of patients state that they don’t plan to stop using telemedicine applications even when the global lockdown is over.

#2 Building Digital Solutions to Ease Physician Load

Clinician burnout was considered a global health crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 60% of healthcare providers reporting at least one symptom of burnout. Under significantly increased workloads, physicians faced an urgent need for digital-first models of care that could help them mitigate the stress and reduced time spent on administrative tasks. Electronic health records, or EHRs, have become a golden standard in reducing paperwork and saving physicians’ time.

EHR stands for a system intended for medical data capture, storage, and exchange. The solution has already gone far from a single assigned physician and involves clinical and laboratory personnel, emergency facilities, pharmaceutical stores, and other parties involved in healthcare. These systems allow physicians and other healthcare providers to instantly access patients’ information, safely exchange data, facilitate diagnostics and prevent errors, cut costs, reduce paperwork, streamline the billing process, and finally, handle all these processes securely, in compliance with HIPAA law.

In 2018, 92.1% of office-based physicians in the US used EMR/EHR systems while 2.26 billion prescriptions were sent electronically in 2020. In 2022 and beyond, EHRs will continue becoming an indispensable tool not only for clinicians but the patients they serve with rates higher than ever at around 89%. Though with some significant changes are strongly required. 

According to a Stanford Medicine survey, 59% of physicians mentioned that their EHR systems needed significant changes. Most EHR/EMR software was built on obsolete platforms with very poor UX, as they started as billing systems slowly adding new functions. Healthcare providers will be forced to rebuild their outdated and unfriendly systems, implementing changes into them: leveraging more AI and IoT for more accurate data analytics, blockchain technology to ensure data security, and wearables to boost patient health engagement.

# 3 Cyber Threats as a Major Problem in Healthcare Industry

Cyber-attacks remain a top industry risk within healthcare. According to Breach reports to the Office for Civil Rights, 225 hacking-related incidents were recorded in the timespan from January to June 2021 and affected more than 21 million people. Such attacks involve stealing valuable patient information and demanding payment from healthcare organizations to retrieve the stolen information.

  • In 2015, Anthem (formerly known as WellPoint) disclosed that hackers received access to a corporate database through a phishing email. The lawbreakers stole around 79 million records that included names, medical IDs, Social Security and insurance membership numbers, and employment information. The largest healthcare cyberattack in history cost Anthem Inc $115 million and resulted in the triplication of its cybersecurity budget.
  • In 2018, the unknown hacker accessed and stole patient data consisting of medical and payment card information, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and addresses from the American Medical Collection Agency which served billing collections for Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp, and other healthcare providers. The attack affected 26 million people and resulted in the company's bankruptcy.
  • A phishing email that had been sent to a Premera Blue Cross employee led to the data breach that cost the company $74 million. The employee clicked the link that was included in the email and downloaded the document that enabled hackers to access Premera's server. The company couldn’t detect the breach for eight months and hired a cybersecurity consulting company. Premera paid $74 million to settle a class-action lawsuit which was the result of a data breach.
  • In 2015, Excellus Health Plan Inc reported that the personal information of more than 10 million customers might be exposed as a result of a cyberattack that happened in 2013. The third party, hired to conduct a forensic review, found out that a large amount of Excellus client data was compromised. Despite the fact that affected data was encrypted, the hackers got access to administrative protocols, making the encryption moot.
  • In 2011, the medical records of millions of military patients and their families were stolen as a result of a data breach in Science Application International Corporation. The records of 4.9 million people were stolen from a data contractor’s car as they were stored on backup tapes.   

Such incidents regularly happen in the healthcare industry: the University of California in 2014, Advocate Medical Group in 2013, Medical Informatics Engineering in 2015, and many more organizations became victims of cyberattacks, losing millions of dollars and most important - their patients’ trust. Given the critical role of data security in the industry, healthcare providers must make a genuine effort to protect patients’ information and steer clear of the misfortune of many organizations that suffered from data breaches. 


#4 A Flexible and Responsive Supply Chain Long-Term

Within the healthcare industry, the supply chain encompasses pharmaceutical products that are critical for a high standard of care for patients and provide supplies of medication for pharmacies. It is estimated that the supply chain includes 30% of operational costs for hospitals. One of the major problems in healthcare in 2021 and rolling over into 2022 was the understanding that supply chains became inflexible and were built on outdated frameworks. Therefore it’s vital for healthcare providers to manage supply chains efficiently and meet the cost objectives, facing the following issues:

  • Product life cycle. As soon as the product is patented, it might take up to eight years to turn it into something that can be marketed. When the patent expires, alternative products can enter the market, or companies can reduce the product price. New technologies are reducing life cycles creating new pressures on distribution channels.
  • Profit margins. Even though separate units of pharmaceutical products are rather expensive, operating margins are not so in the wholesaler sector particularly because of hospitals’, retailers’, and manufacturers’ control over the pricing.
  • Forecasting. The difficulty to predict the exact demand for medicines is because of the absence of accurate data on consumption and the lack of standard nomenclature for healthcare products.
  • Lack of supply chain education. Managers are not well informed and equipped to control the supply of medication.

All the aforementioned issues will be actively addressed by healthcare providers in 2022 through the implementation of e-procurement systems to significantly reduce purchasing costs by the consolidation of supplier networks, ERP systems to provide an automated and paperless format for information to communicate through organizations.


The Benefits of Digital Transformation in Healthcare                    

Countries That Are Actively Transforming Healthcare
Estonia flag
Estonia
When Covid-19 hit Europe, a big part of European countries found themselves looking for new ways of providing care while in Estonia life was going on as usual. Estonia’s health service went digital about 12 years ago. With more than 99% of patient data generated by doctors and hospitals being digitized, Estonians can easily access their data via a very secure online portal. E-prescriptions and video consultations have already become “a new normal”. Even deaths are registered online with notifications automatically sent to people’s workplaces, tax offices, and the population registry. Estonian citizens are actively involved in key decisions about the healthcare system. For example, a state-backed innovation platform - Accelerate Estonia runs hackathons where startups design new solutions for digitization. In March 2020, a virtual two-day event “Hack the Crisis” gathered more than a thousand people to develop digital solutions to help during the pandemic. Among the winners was a tool to connect the sick to volunteers who can help them out and a platform that connects the unemployed with companies in need of additional staff.
Denmark flag
Denmark
Denmark has one of the most advanced digital health systems and technologically looking-forward, alongside the elaborated Strategic Digital Initiatives (2016-2020) that was proven to become an effective tool in establishing easy and efficient cooperation among healthcare actors. The Danish government has managed to build an integrated network with the main focus on patients and the safety of their data. Healthcare professionals got access to recent prescription-medicine overview to cooperate better with other healthcare facilities and decrease inequalities. According to the Digital Economy and Society Index, Denmark is one of the most digitized economies and societies in the EU. The new Digital Health Strategy (2018-2022) is a paradigm shift based on the achievements of Danish healthcare digitization. At the level when all Danish citizens and doctors have access to their own Electronic Health Records, the new system aims at establishing a higher level of data security, integrated care, and prevention initiatives.
US flag
The US
Increasing usage of mobile phones, the fast-growing geriatric population, and the surging prevalence of arthritis has significantly driven the development of the healthcare sector in the US. By 2025, its digital healthcare market is forecasted to reach $191 billion, with a progression of 28.4% at a CAGR in the period between 2021 and 2025. Even before the pandemic in 2020, which notably boosted the need for digital health, patients’ adoption of digital health had been steadily growing. According to Statista, in 2019, 42% of Americans admitted to using digital health tracking while the global digital health market was worth $175 billion. In February 2021, Philips was mentioned to have completed the acquisition of BioTelemetry Inc., which is a dominant US-based provider of remote cardiac diagnostics and monitoring. The combination of Philips’ leading patient care management portfolio in the hospital, its advanced and secure cloud-based HealthSuite digital platform, and BioTelemetry’s leading cardiac diagnostics outside the hospital, will result in global leadership in healthcare management solutions for cardiac and other patients.
Australia flag
Australia
In Australia, the COVID-19 pandemic became a catalyst for accelerated investment in healthcare digitization and building closer coordination between government and private and public sector actors. The Australian government estimates that “it delivered 10 years of reform in 10 days’, introducing telehealth to the whole population under Medicare. The government funded the launch of the online platform MyHealth Record that forms patient health information and ensures interoperability among clinical information systems. It has been estimated that 65% of public hospitals currently use EMR systems, as a result of the $197 million government allocation in November 2020 aimed at the rollout of EMR and PAS systems in its metropolitan health networks. A lot of positive shifts have been also seen in the Australian public sector. For instance, in February 2020 the first virtual hospital in New South Wales was launched by Sydney Local Health District and treated more than 3500 patients in its first 7 months.
Israel flag
Israel
Israel is one of the most powerful players in digital health in the Middle East. In March 2018, the government of Israel set to launch a $275 million digital health strategy that implied a personalized digital database that stored information of up to 9 million citizens of the country. In July the same year, Jerusalem mentioned a $33 million grant for biotech and medicine research. Reuters reported that the government planned to give Medtronic, GE Healthcare, and Change Health their grant money in the time span of next six years. Israel’s interest in digital health is not a new thing. Solely in 2017, Israel-based companies got more than 20 deals, according to Startup Health’s report. Israel’s Digital Health Strategy states that the current main goal of the healthcare system in the country is to unify the existing database of the digital medical records Israel has been collecting for 20 years. This database holds the medical information of more than 98% of the country's population. What is more, they aim at promoting and improving telemedicine to enhance cooperation between different healthcare institutions.
Sweden flag
Sweden
One of the early adopters of digital, Sweden, is actively leveraging the opportunities innovations bring in healthcare. Since 2018, patients can easily access their electronic health records, including patient’s history, medicines, test results, and appointment bookings. Moreover, the country’s capital Stockholm is now making it mandatory for healthcare providers to provide digital services in order to meet patients’ expectations of fast and personalized service. The Swedish have access to multiple apps for healthcare systems navigation, booking physical or virtual appointments with general practitioners, tracking their medical records, and receiving treatment. The most popular are KRY (an app that allows users to consult with a health professional in minutes), 1177.se (the platform to assess and screen disease), Coala Life (a smartphone-based ECG that can detect arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation based on analysis of P-wave and RP variability in the ECG measurement), and Actiste (an app to monitor blood sugar values and take insulin doses).

Technologies that Drive Innovation in Healthcare Industry


Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning


Artificial Intelligence is rewiring the traditional concept of healthcare delivery at hyper-speed. According to Accenture, the growth of AI implementation is already accelerating, by 2021 it has been estimated to reach $6.6 billion which is a compound annual growth rate of 40% compared to $600 million in 2014.

In the healthcare industry, Artificial Intelligence represents an umbrella term that unites a range of technologies, enabling machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn. Presenting opportunities across a variety of therapy areas, diagnostics, wearables, and virtual assistants, AI helps healthcare organizations to meet the increasing demand for interoperability and digital expectations from customers.

One of the most forms of Artificial intelligence, machine learning, enables decision-making by processing and finding patterns in big data sets. It consists of algorithms that are used to learn from data independently without human intervention.


  • Diagnostics and medical imaging

In 2015, medical error and misdiagnosing accounted for 10% of all US deaths. Over the past couple of years, AI has substantially expanded in the fields of diagnostics and medical imaging, enabling medical researchers and doctors to deliver flawless clinical practice. Speeding up standardization and quantification, deep learning not only helps to prevent errors and improve test outcomes, it also improves the assessment in medical imaging to detect malignancy and Diabetic Retinopathy (DR).

Enlitic, the 5th smartest AI company in the world, develops deep learning medical tools to streamline radiology diagnosis. Through analyzing unstructured medical data such as radiology images, EKGs, blood tests, etc, the platform gives doctors better insights into a patient's current state.

  • Diseases prediction

The healthcare industry operates vast volumes of patient records. Using machine learning tools to store and analyze this data, healthcare providers can address a large number of diseases before their occurrence. Currently, data mining is used for the development of early detection systems. 

Freenome leverages AI in screening, blood work, and diagnostic tests to examine for cancer. This allows it to detect cancer in its earliest stages and afterward develop new treatments.

  • Surgery and emergency room

Da Vinci Surgery System, developed 15 years ago, was the first surgical robot approved by the FDA for general laparoscopic surgery. Since then, a big number of AI and ML-powered surgical robots have been introduced. Cognitive robotics is able to integrate pre-operation medical records with real-time operating metrics to guide and improve doctor’s instrument precision.

With advanced medical cognitive and NLP capabilities, IBM Watson is able to respond to surgeons’ queries. Such AI-powered platforms can monitor blood in real-time, provide navigating support in arthroscopy and open surgery, and detect physical responses to pain.

Blockchain


In the period of time from 2009 to 2017, more than 176 million patient records were exposed in data breaches, including medical records, credit card, and banking information.

Such disappointing statistics make security the most vulnerable point of healthcare digitization. The usage of blockchain technology helps mitigate such risks by securely encrypting and transferring patient data, managing the medicine supply chain, and even outbreak of harmful diseases. One of the countries with the biggest blockchain potential is Estonia. The country has been using blockchain since 2012 to secure medical information and process transactions. Today, 95% of Estonian healthcare data and 99% of prescription information is digital while all of the country’s healthcare billing is handled on the blockchain. Some other blockchain applications in healthcare include:


  • Supply chain transparency

By leveraging blockchain, healthcare providers can develop a single system to store, continuously update health records, and ensure secure and fast retrieval by authorized users. The existence of such a unified system helps to avoid mistakes and miscommunication, ensure faster and more accurate diagnosis, and provide each patient with more personalized care. 

  • Smart contracts for supply chain and insurance settlements

Blockchain-based systems are used by healthcare providers, insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and wholesalers to authenticate their identities as organizations, track transactions and payments, and log contract details. Fully digital and automated environments help drastically cut down disputes over payment chargeback claims for prescription medications and other goods.

Chronicled states that as a result of a change of pricing structures, there are over one million chargeback claims made between actors annually, more than 5% of which are disputed, requiring lengthy manual resolution.

  • Patient-centric EHRs

According to 2016 Johns Hopkins University research, the third leading cause of death in the US was medical errors as a result of poorly coordinated care. Errors and omissions in patient records have become a problem that healthcare systems in many countries are struggling with. A blockchain-based system for medical records, linked to existing EMR software can easily solve this problem.

Medicalchain is a great example of a company that helps healthcare providers implement blockchain-enabled EMRs

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

By implementing VR & AR technologies, many healthcare companies have managed to establish connections with their patients in terms of the pandemic, providing remote and personalized care. Passed have the times when the technologies were exclusively devoted to the gaming industry. In 2021 and beyond, VR & AR will be actively used for medical training, physical therapy, post-traumatic stress treatment, and some other purposes:


  • Medical Immersion for a variety of patient needs

Healthcare providers actively leverage VR & AR technologies to enhance their patients’ experiences by engaging them in healthcare activities. A good example is the implementation of VR apps for planning the sequence of procedures and viewing the results in aesthetic medicine and orthodontia. These solutions can be also used for improved self-diagnostics and self-guided treatment in remote areas where people mainly use telemedicine. Another implementation of AR is mapping assisting which users can define the nearest clinics in unknown areas, which is especially useful in case of emergency.

  • Preparation for surgery

Surgeons can use VR & AR solutions before performing an operation to walk through the organs or view 3D models of challenging surgical cases. What is more, such 3D organ models can serve illustrative purposes in the learning process or explain to patients the whole surgery process. According to a Harvard Business Review study, surgeons that trained with VR solutions had a 230% boost in their performance in comparison to their traditionally trained colleagues.

Such software programs provided by Osso VR and Immersive Touch are already in active use and give promising results. 

  • Pain treatment
The technology has also been proven to be effective in reducing pain. The research shows that patients who suffered from post-surgical, cardiac, or gastrointestinal pain, have shown a decline in pain levels while using VR to distract them from painful stimuli. Also, women in labor who were equipped with VR headsets to visualize soothing landscapes managed to more easily get through labor pain.   


Digital is a New Normal

A health industry that has found itself fighting in the dark with the consequences of the pandemic will strongly need to adjust to big pressure due to increasing competition, new government regulations, rising costs, and customer demand for a higher quality of service.

Such factors as security issues and data breaches, lack of patient confidentiality, and transparency will hamper the market growth. Though the healthcare deal activity will still remain robust as investors and executives will be looking to reposition themselves for post-pandemic growth.

In 2022, the healthcare system will strongly need real-time insights to forecast the challenges and address them by being equipped with the latest technologies. The implementation of artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and VR&AR will play a crucial role in diagnostics, disease predictions, surgery preparation, and will significantly reduce expenses and improve the experience for both: patients and healthcare providers.

About inVerita

inVerita is a trusted technology partner to healthcare providers, offering a wide spectrum of consulting, design, engineering operations, and technology solutions. We engineer scalable health information exchange systems, cloud-based telehealth software, patient engagement solutions, EHR & EMR software, and support any kind of clinical software development specifically tailored to the requirements of your organization.

Our Services
EHR & EMR Software
EHR & EMR Software
We are a medical software development company that builds robust EHR & EMR systems that go beyond basic functionalities such as storing clinical documentation and notes. Our cloud-based solutions can be safely integrated with hospital and practice management software to streamline the workflow by interfacing with other providers. By implementing these fully functional solutions, you’ll get the ability to receive lab results, X-ray images, warnings about drug interactions, assistance in the diagnosis, and access to e-prescribing technology in one unified application.
Hospital and Clinic Management Software
Hospital and Clinic Management Software
Hospital and clinic management software improves medical treatment efficiency by managing every aspect of hospital administration and handling patient and medical staff information. An HMS/HCS allows to significantly reduce time spent on administrative tasks and avoid inaccuracy by registering patients’ data online, providing digital drug prescription and billing, tracking the availability of beds, and receiving laboratory results.
Telemedicine Software Development
Telemedicine Software Development
By helping healthcare organizations build sturdy custom telemedicine software we aim at transforming the way patients and medical providers interact. Integrated with the latest technologies, our telemedicine software reduces waiting time for patients, simplifies patient-doctor communication, and allows secure healthcare storage and real-time video consultations.
Custom Healthcare Software Development
Custom Healthcare Software Development
We create HIPAA-compliant custom software solutions to facilitate interoperability, streamline workflows, and enhance patient-provider interaction. Powered by ML and Big Data, our software automates manual and paper-based procedures, encompasses scheduling, diagnostics, treatment prescription, billing, and more. Depending on your vision and business requirements, our dedicated team will choose the best technology stack and set of features for the product.
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Developing your custom healthcare solution with inVerita, you will receive the assistance of a dedicated team of developers and business analysts with strong expertise in the field, secure electronic access to health data in compliance with HIPAA and GDPR regulations, efficient patient-doctor communication, decision support, and ability to manage all results and reports electronically. We’ll help you to capture, store, and share patient data securely and efficiently to provide them with the best care.

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