How will tech define the post-Covid era in healthcare?


Bhushan Patil, SVP EMEA, at Tech Mahindra gives an analysis of the ways technology will enhance healthcare following the covid pandemic.

COVID-19 was an unprecedented health crisis, which not only put a strain on our healthcare infrastructure, but the way that healthcare is delivered across the world. Thankfully, indomitable human spirit aided by advanced technology has continued to provide solutions at every hurdle, and will be the key to a quick and effective recovery to pre-pandemic life.

While the vast benefits of smart technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and the cloud were demonstrated during the pandemic, the sudden influx of patients (including the demand for vaccinations and virtual care) are having a lasting impact on the health sector. The pandemic highlighted just how inefficient paper-based processes and legacy IT systems were and we are now seeing rapid tech adoption by the industry to optimise their systems and processes to leverage these digital technologies to the fullest.

The healthcare challenges

The pandemic brought in four distinct challenges for health systems across the world including the UK. They are: care delivery mechanism, healthcare infrastructure stretched to capacity,  supply chain logistics and urgency of rapid discovery of effective treatment.

The need for social distancing affected health professionals’ ability to deliver care. Not only was boosting care beds and staffing critical, but there were also delays in time sensitive treatments. While a massive ramp up was needed to vaccinate entire populations at least twice, severe restrictions on work and travel completely disrupted the global supply chain.

Despite the emergence of Omicron this new year, there has still been a lot of progress made in our ability to deal with the virus, namely due to the advancement of technology across the health ecosystem and huge learnings during the year. The rapid uptake of booster doses in the UK shows behavioural changes in the way patients self-treat and seek healthcare have also had a major impact on the way that healthcare is delivered, making virtual healthcare a priority, especially as uncertainty continues.

Patients want accessible and convenient health services that ultimately save them time and effort. However, as little as 48.4% of UK health organisations’ services were available digitally prior to COVID-19. The pandemic played a key role in pushing healthcare providers to deliver more digital solutions with research revealing that there were more than 11 million telehealth appointments in the lead up to March 2021 alone.

Medical Healthcare Research and Development Concept. Doctor in hospital lab with science health research icon show symbol of medical care technology innovation, medicine discovery and healthcare data.

How technology offered a way out of the pandemic

While teleconsultations acted as a solution to accessing healthcare, over half of patients in the UK want to continue remote consultations as it offers a way to bridge the gap between patients and doctors. Not only this, but it can also help patients with mobility restrictions avoid the need for physical travel. Due to its accessibility, teleconsultations have been one of the technologies that significantly aided both patients and doctors during the pandemic. 

The record time that vaccines were developed and manufactured in countries like India, the US and the UK was also another sterling win for scientists and technology. The progress we have seen in vaccine development during the pandemic has been a significant transformation which will revolutionise the process of drug discovery in the future. By using AI in real-time, medical professionals were able to access high volumes of data to identify virus characteristics. This, in turn, has helped speed up the process of data management, analysis, diagnosis and the development of vaccinations.

Tech for the next generation of health

In 2022, emerging technologies such as AI, 5G and the cloud will empower significant developments in the way that healthcare is delivered to patients. With better management of data and process innovation, diagnosis and remote patient care is only at the beginning of its transformation.

Cloud innovation for example, has helped to unify health institutions. The NHS’ move to the cloud has enabled greater agility, scalability and efficiency so that the NHS can be streamlined using its 2018 solution, NHS Digital. Since it was first implemented, the NHS has moved more than 2.1 million NHS email servers to the cloud, representing the largest enterprise email migration to date globally.

A strategy that leverages a single infrastructure to function can greatly reduce costs, improve data security and streamlining management. According to Broadsoft research, 41% of data insufficiencies in hospitals can be attributed to disparate platforms. Meanwhile, 64% of health institutions were able to achieve real results from the benefits offered by unified operations.

5G use cases have also made a significant contribution during the pandemic. 5G connectivity enabled both remote and real-time patient care, which will continue to revolutionise methods used by health professionals as the technology develops. In fact, £3.2 million in 5G funding has been granted to Edinburgh Napier University so that researchers can leverage the technology to develop hearing aids. Further, O2 is also working on a ‘Smart Ambulance’ trial which leverages 5G with an aim to reduce hospital numbers and provide a better quality of care.

Ultimately, low latency, ultrafast connectivity enabled by 5G will be the pivotal function that connects healthcare innovations, making healthcare more efficient and accessible for all.

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Healthtech transformations for the future

The pandemic exposed gaps in the health sector in regard to delivering the quality of service required at scale. As we tentatively emerge from COVID-19 however, healthtech innovations driven by AI, 5G and the cloud are redefining the playbook. The response to finding solutions designed for diagnosis and treatment were overwhelming, but it is important to maintain the same momentum to create innovative and future-proof health services.

By embracing healthtech innovations as they become available, health institutions can optimise existing systems and processes. The pandemic has proven just how impactful adopting emerging technologies can be, so paying attention to where it can be used next should be a continuous priority for health institutions as we enter the next phase of healthcare.   

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Bhushan Patil

Having spent nearly 3 decades in B2B Consultative Sales & Sales Management, Bhushan heads Tech Mahindra’s EMEA Growth Office, responsible for digital revenue growth across Tech Mahindra's largest Sales Region with a mission to deliver on the top 3 CEO priorities - RUN Better, CHANGE Faster and GROW Greater!

He focuses on three core Growth Tracks keeping an eye of rapidly changing technology landscape :

- Wave 2 Technologies i.e. Cloud, Cx, Data Analytics, Security, AI and Intelligent Networks/5G;
- Scaling up Strategic Alliance Ecosystem
- Mergers & Acquisitions and Private Equity relationships

Prior to this role, Bhushan worked with CXOs of leading providers like Vodafone, Telefonica, Hutch etc for their IT & Network transformations.

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