How innovation is making a difference at the front line of healthcare

Posted on 09/04/2020 by vmwareemeasmt
DISCLAIMER: this article is older than one year and may not be up to date with recent events or newly available information.

Healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries for Innovation, as covered in our recent Future of Healthcare Report.

Some areas of healthcare have been changed dramatically to embrace space age ideas into reality. It took decades to introduce the first healthcare Instrument – the Stethoscope, and today we are introducing organ replacements, 3D printing, robots into core activities within days and months. Technological innovation has provided efficient clinical treatments, optimised the diagnosis of dangerous diseases, reduced public health threats, and vastly improved health services globally. It has also completely turned the patient-specialist communication model on its head. Patients are at the core of how data & communications are created, accessed and manipulated.

A limitless future

From improving laser like accuracy and precision when performing a complicated operation to optimising a diagnosis by using smart systems capable of understanding health issues and complicated diseases, innovation in healthcare is redefining what we believed was possible no more than a few years ago. Many experts are certain that artificial intelligence and IoT will find the greatest application in the healthcare market helping to create a healthcare system that supports each individual to stay healthy and not focus on disease treatment.

We already seeing IoT, VR, 5G and robotics making a huge difference through developments like enabling remote access for time critical operations and accessibility, real or virtual, in remote areas. The next generation of surgeons and clinicians will be completely literate in these technologies and be better qualified to engage them to maximum potential. So much so that, in twenty years, cancer and diabetes could be seen as less life-threatening while the onset of other diseases could be delayed or eliminated entirely. Elsewhere, personalised and targeted therapies and sophisticated tests and tools could mean most diagnosis and treatment take place at home or remotely – making the patient the focal point of care.

All possible because innovative technological solutions are enabling the worlds of devices, software and services to integrate and mesh together. This is the driving force behind the move from traditional product-centric medicine to a patient-centric approach.

The innovation-execution gap

Yet, while innovation is held up as the solution to the challenges faced by the healthcare industry, it is not a silver bullet. What matters is the ability to execute on ideas.

It’s a challenge identified as the “innovation-execution” gap by Cass Business School and VMware in its ‘Innovating in the exponential economy’ report. The time delay in introducing new innovation comes from the process end typically – how we approve a product, how we get through the process of patenting a trial fast enough to cope with demand. Interestingly, it tends to be the processes managed by ‘people’ where delay is introduced and slows us down. We also have a known problem – if a new innovation, product or treatment results in additional effort for the GP, Clinician or Surgeon to prescribe they are less likely to use it, which again, slows down the process in introducing better treatments into mainstream health. It is this that needs focus to be able to cope with the demand and supply of healthcare innovation.

To bridge this gap, people need to know how to contribute and how to deliver. Healthcare organisations need to focus on putting the right people, process and technology into play and foster an environment where innovation is supported. These people must understand each other and how they interface with each other to be truly successful. Everything needs to be simple, easy and it must be able to co-exist. The more we innovate, the more tech we create and the simpler we need to become in our consumption of that. And when healthcare organisations get the combination right, the results can be staggering, as the below example highlights.

Innovation in practice

One of the biggest challenges innovation in healthcare is helping to address is that posed by an increasingly ageing population. Helse Nord, Norway’s geographically largest health authority, wanted to evolve how it offered its services in the context of this particular issue. This meant cultivating a bigger, more tech-literate and agile workforce in the health sector able to adapt to the fluctuation demands and acute care needs of the elderly.

To manage the ageing population challenge based on the current system, said Vegard Jørgensen, Senior Advisor at Helse Nord IKT, the authority’s IT division, would require “a large workforce of health workers. That’s why it is essential for IT and technology to handle some of these functions going forward.” To do that, and meet the demands of serving half a million patients and the working requirements of 19,000 employees, Helse Nord upgraded its IT infrastructure. It deployed a hybrid solution, based on a software-defined data centre, which married both cloud and on-premise, to allow patients and clinicians access to data in a secure environment. At the same time, employees were moved to a platform that provides all their services, from email to shift planning and personnel information.

Creating a healthcare system suitable for 21st-century demands

As the above example highlights, understanding and embracing the enormous potential of digital technologies is fundamental to creating a healthcare system suitable for 21st-century demands. Technology will change the way certain activities are carried out. Those who deal with it with an open attitude will profit from the change and develop themselves further.

But the complexity to deliver new and emerging technologies can feel daunting. We believe it is a software-enabled foundation that can deliver this innovation, securely, with less complexity and at speed. Through one platform, healthcare providers can drive patient value, create the best environment for developers and help IT effectively manage existing and new IT via any cloud for any application on any device with intrinsic security.

But this is more than a technology story.

To do this in a sustainable manner requires three key things: resist the temptation to believe technology alone is the answer, pay special attention to measurement, and to engage patients from the start. We must be able to confidently address all three if we are to progress in innovating in the way we know we must, to ensure a sustainable future for European healthcare. Despite the huge amount of change already, we have only begun to touch the tip of the iceberg and there is much more to do and many more innovations to create. I believe the pace of change in this industry will become even faster, as our ability to consume change is transformed into something simple and easy.

To learn more about how VMware is approaching innovation in the healthcare sector, please download The Future of Healthcare report here.

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