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Healthcare 4.0 – The future of Healthcare!

Stage of healthcare transformation:

Healthcare industry is at the dawn of re-evolving post the pandemic. Though the need for change has been initiated by the worldwide increasing adoption of Industry 4.0 across several sectors, the COVID-19 has pushed the agenda of implementation in the healthcare sector.  In a survey by MeriTalk’s IT leaders, USD $342 billion is lost in benefits every year by government health and human services agencies through the poor management of data and in managing different datasets. Additionally, 62% of laboratory tests and 35% of radiology tests are not followed up on, thus resulting in missing critical diagnosis .

Currently, the healthcare industry has several shortcomings to be addressed and the pandemic has made the solution design and implementation even more challenging.

  1. High costs of healthcare services
  2. Shortage of healthcare professionals
  3. Increasing demand for higher quality of care services
  4. Lower satisfactory levels from the careseekers
  5. Instability in the healthcare value chain
  6. Lack of inter industry collaborations
  7. Inability to create better practices and process
  8. Recurring financial and revenue loss to the organizations

 

In order to overcome the aforementioned challenges, the healthcare industry has initiated the Industry 4.0 revolution, coined as “Healthcare 4.0”. Whilst the former primarily focuses on technology implementation only, the latter focuses on people and enables technology as a catalyst to provide better care. Newer healthcare design models and strategies are being formulated on cutting edge – Information and Communication technology (ICT) [1,2,5]. The article aims at providing an insight of the healthcare transformation with regards to the technological developments and the application of healthcare 4.0 for patients, professionals and the healthcare management.

Stages in Healthcare ICT transformation:

Latest technological innovations have been disruptive of the pre-existing healthcare approaches and is causing a ripple on how healthcare services are organized, delivered and practised. Over the years, through healthcare 1.0 to 4.0, aspects such as the patient-physician model have been redefined and in facilitating the emergence of new industry players within the value chain.

In order to overcome the aforementioned challenges, the healthcare industry has initiated the Industry 4.0 revolution, coined as “Healthcare 4.0”. Whilst the former primarily focuses on technology implementation only, the latter focuses on people and enables technology as a catalyst to provide better care. Newer healthcare design models and strategies are being formulated on cutting edge – Information and Communication technology (ICT) [1,2,5]. The article aims at providing an insight of the healthcare transformation with regards to the technological developments and the application of healthcare 4.0 for patients, professionals and the healthcare management.

Stages in Healthcare ICT transformation:

Latest technological innovations have been disruptive of the pre-existing healthcare approaches and is causing a ripple on how healthcare services are organized, delivered and practised. Over the years, through healthcare 1.0 to 4.0, aspects such as the patient-physician model have been redefined and in facilitating the emergence of new industry players within the value chain.

How will Healthcare 4.0 be beneficial ?

The main core principle of Health 4.0 is in connecting patients, personal medical devices, hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical and medical suppliers, and other healthcare related elements to create a smart health network and create a value chain. The key stakeholders in the healthcare system are patients, physicians, employers, insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms and government[7]. The key technologies of the Healthcare 4.0 are beneficial in the following aspects:

  1. Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable/smart devices – paves way for patients to self manage and monitor their medical needs, and provide channels for more interactive communication with healthcare professionals
  2. Blockchain technology – Provides real-time capturing of patient clinical records
  3. Artificial Intelligence – More accurate predictive models of a patient’s condition
  4. Big data – Cumulative analysis of healthcare resources, and predicts the components of care with the expectation of patients for healthy and holistic care.

Healthcare 4.0 and people:

The main objective of Healthcare 4.0 is to improve patient’s healthcare services quality and experiences. The enabling technologies, can be integrated into the healthcare core to provide enriched care and services:

  1. Patient Management: Though there are several applications to find suitable care providers by the patient, the processes that follow such as insurance policies, personal data, disease records are managed at different levels. With 4.0 integration, the patients can access the system, outline their needs and requirements and the software system will automatically provide the next necessary guidelines and combine the available relevant data from their medical records and coordinate it with providers involved like doctors, labs, and pharmacies.
  2. In-Patient Care: Most hospitals in developing and developed economies have digital health records, an interconnected  network of medical devices like MRIs and X ray. With healthcare 4.0, the patient from the admission till discharge is managed efficiently and the resource allocation is direct and accessible. The in-patient care services ranging from dietary requirements, lab reports, schedule surgery, upto connecting the patient’s smart devices for continuous monitoring of vitals.
  3. Home Care:  WIth increasing ageing population, the home care scope has expanded from caring for individuals post-surgery to caring for the geriatric population. With  Healthcare 4.0 technologies, applications are being built to monitor the patient at home, track their progress and send SOS alerts to healthcare providers in case of emergencies,  connecting the patient with the healthcare provider. The collection of the data pertaining to the patient’s health by the healthcare provider enables the need for timely follow-up and visits and reduces the frequency of routine visits.

Healthcare 4.0 and Healthcare providers :

People involved in healthcare, apart from the patients, who provide care and are involved in managing the care services can have a better advantage with healthcare 4.0. The data collected as a part of 4.0 process, can be used in leveraging applications to streamline and optimize the hospital practices and processes efficiently, thereby leveraging better financial outcomes.

  1. Management Quality and Collaboration: While managing from patient records, to billing, staff management and devices monitoring result in majority of the mismanagement in hospitals that incur losses. Healthcare 4.0 with its technologies can create a seamless process of managing from the data collected and through big data analytics, not only does the management process be streamlined but even the next visit of the patient can be predicted alongside their diseases and complications.
  2. Reducing Staff Burnout: The high demand and short supply of skilled healthcare professionals forces the available professionals to take on more responsibilities and work higher hours. Through healthcare 4.0 applications, tasks such as patient data history, device availability and other scheduling taken care of, the professionals can focus on the delivery of care and save enormous time. This can reduce the staff burnout and also allocate their time in enhancing the satisfactory care for their patients.
  3. Scheduling and Resource Management: In terms of resources, the most crucial are consultation rooms, OPs and certain clearance rooms, diagnostic devices and many others. There is often lack of availability and/ or mismatched schedules leading to overlap of two different scenarios and  delay in providing timely care.Consumables like protective gear, sanitizers, disposable diagnostic tools, etc. also needs to be organized to ensure all personnel can receive them when needed. Through the advanced algorithms of Healthcare 4.0, the creation of optimized schedules, creating risk and contingency plans and allocating resources and staff for any emergencies. Further the data when integrated with inventory control systems can lead to tracking of usage of consumables, requirements and effective waste management. This approach will result in providing professionals better schedules and an improved work environment.

 

With the growing demand for Healthcare 4.0 technologies, arises new challenges to overcome. The demands for re-centralisation of the patient as the core in the healthcare system requires a significant cultural change in the current system. Additionally with data collection and analysis, the ethical issues and concerns have to be addressed effectively with right design models and understanding the patient privacy concerns sensitively and efficiently.

Healthcare 4.0 is crucial to create smart,  automated and efficient services to address the existing challenges faced by the healthcare industry. This inturn, will greatly impact the quality and efficiency,  while reducing costs incurred to healthcare providers. With data being available, healthcare 4.0 targets in using this data and putting it into the right practices to deliver the quality care and creating the ability in bringing together the healthcare organizations and  care seekers for better outcomes. Additionally it also allows applications to realize specific requirements for response times, quality of service, and well managed resources.  Finally, it is of utmost importance to address the issues of inequities and ensure that healthcare 4.0 is designed to mitigate them and provide the access to high quality and enhanced care for all the people.

Reference:

  1. Al-Jaroodi, J., Mohamed, N. and Abukhousa, E., 2020. Health 4.0: On the Way to Realizing the Healthcare of the Future. IEEE Access, 8, pp.211189-211210.
  2. Bause, M., Esfahani, B.K., Forbes, H. and Schaefer, D., 2019, July. Design for health 4.0: exploration of a new area. In Proceedings of the design society: international conference on engineering design (Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 887-896). Cambridge University Press.
  3. B. Marr (2018), “Why the internet of medical things will start to transform healthcare in 2018”. [online] Forbes. Available  at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2018/01/25/why-the-internet-of-medical-things-iomt-will-start-to-transform-healthcare-in-2018/?sh=277cec914a3cAccessed on 24 July  2021
  4. Digitalising Healthcare [online] Healthcare management org. Available at: https://healthmanagement.org/c/hospital/news/digitalising-healthcareAccessed on 23 July 2021.
  5. Embracing Healthcare 4.0 [online] Siemens. Available at: https://www.siemens-healthineers.com/insights/news/embracing-healthcare-4-0.htmlAccessed on 24 July 2021.
  6. Chanchaichujit, J., Tan, A., Meng, F. and Eaimkhong, S., 2019. An introduction to healthcare 4.0. In Healthcare 4.0 (pp. 1-15). Palgrave Pivot, Singapore.
  7. Sageena, G., Sharma, M. and Kapur, A., 2021. Evolution of Smart Healthcare: Telemedicine During COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of The Institution of Engineers (India): Series B, pp.1-6.
  8. Tortorella, G.L., Fogliatto, F.S., Espôsto, K.F., Mac Cawley, A.F., Vassolo, R., Tlapa, D. and Narayanamurthy, G., 2020. Healthcare costs’ reduction through the integration of Healthcare 4.0 technologies in developing economies. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, pp.1-21.
Likhithaa

With MSc in Strategic Project Management, Likhithaa works as a Project Coordinator for GraynWhite. In the crossroads of Science and Management, is where Likhithaa thrives and finds her passion. If not working, she will be reading books and visiting art galleries.

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