Pre-pandemic, digitally enabled healthcare was progressing; we recognized the burden of disease was unsustainable and that there was a real need to shift to a preventative care model, underpinned by technology. However, the last couple of years have proven how capable technology is at aiding our pressurized health care systems, creating a sense of urgency to rapidly accelerate its integration.
The power of digital connectivity and equitable access
The power of digital connectivity throughout the pandemic has been undeniably evident; remote triaging and virtual care has come into its own and off its success there has been an acknowledgment to do more of the same. Yet, our healthcare systems have been exasperated by the pandemic and not just through a rise in demand for urgent care.
Elective treatment has been delayed. On top of this, COVID-19 has exposed the digital divide regarding the level of care people receive based on their connectivity levels and the disparity of healthcare that is available depending on where you live in a country. Worryingly, 58% of people were unable to access critical services during the pandemic lockdown due to unreliable internet. As a society, we have a duty to level up the health care journey to ensure equitable access and experiences for everyone, whilst balancing public system costs and resources. Digitally integrated and secure healthcare platforms have the power to aid the path of our health systems’ recovery – both short term in response to the pandemic and long term to shift towards a preventative healthcare model. They create an ecosystem which enables care to be delivered in the most appropriate setting and personalized to the needs of the patient, whilst building in security mechanisms. It is critical that these systems interact and coordinate with one another to help ensure people have a seamless, contextualized experience regardless of their journey of care – be it with their General Practitioner, hospital, council, at home or in a care home, remotely or in person.
Digitally enabled healthcare systems create a more inclusive workforce
A digitally enabled healthcare system has immense benefits too – for both staff and patients. Hybrid work has the potential to create a more inclusive and empowered workforce, encouraging those who may have recently retired or left their profession back into practice to work part-time in remote roles. In part, hybrid solutions can help to address chronic healthcare workforce shortages and underpin new virtual models of care that can contribute to a reduction in the backlog of care. Plus, the automation and streamlining of processes through greater collaboration eases the burden of administrative tasks and increases productivity, whilst also reducing service costs and CO2 emissions.
A sleeker, smarter care system that focuses on prevention and shifting care closer to home using digital technologies, is also a game changer for patients. For non-urgent care, a digital front door provides access to video consultation that can be less disruptive than in-patient care, with many consultations being conducted in the comfort of one’s own home. For those people with longer term health conditions, a secure portal packed with health and wellbeing materials, virtual advice and access to health coaching can help them live healthier lives.
Technology enabled healthcare is re-imagining the patient experience, whilst creating possibilities to redefine how frontline staff deliver care, help improve patient outcomes and achieve operational efficiencies. The biggest challenge we face is ensuring everyone can access these critical services through affordable broadband and that they have the digital skills and devices to use them.
Cisco solutions help our customers across healthcare focus on what they do best, which is caring for patients. Experience the holistic care journey through our digital booth infographic.
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