The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t just put healthcare providers at the centre of public consciousness; it has also highlighted the pressing need for digital transformation in the sector, pushing digital health technologies such as telehealth and remote monitoring into the fore.
The impetus for digital change is both internal and external. Healthcare organisations face a particular challenge in accommodating practices such as remote working, since for many, the concept is entirely new. This has necessitated the transition to telehealth consultation while ensuring security of critical data and patient information. Under these fluid circumstances, healthcare organisations must also find new ways to work efficiently with governments and businesses to deliver the vaccine as it becomes available.
In Singapore, technology has proven critical for seamless tracking as the nation moves towards pandemic recovery. The Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) have developed a set of open-source digital standards used for the issuing of digital COVID-19 test result certificates, known as HealthCerts. Leveraging blockchain technology, HealthCerts will help facilitate cross-border verification of health documents, such as pre-departure COVID-19 test results. Apart from HealthCerts, those eligible for vaccination will be able to book their appointments via the National Appointment System and view their vaccination records on the HealthHub mobile app.
While this is a great start, transformation in healthcare will continue to be a steep process. At the moment, over a quarter of healthcare organizations run exclusively traditional, non-cloud-enabled datacentres — more so than any other industry, according to our latest Healthcare Enterprise Cloud Index (ECI) report. The good news is that many have an ambitious five-year plan to rectify this by opting for hybrid cloud setups as the foundation for their operations. The added flexibility that this offers mean they are able to face the switch to telehealth consultations with confidence. It also promises to help streamline processes such as invoicing and payments and make it easier to collaborate with third parties such as governments, academics and businesses.
This is part of an increased focus on IT across the board. In our report, more than two thirds of respondents said their companies were looking at IT more strategically as a result of the pandemic. Almost all (95 percent) said a hybrid model would be their top choice as a means of preparing for the future.
As in many industries, Covid-19 has sped up change that was already on the cards. Singapore needs to meet the challenge of ensuring that healthcare services remain accessible and affordable, especially with the increasing number of people living longer with complex conditions. It is estimated that by 2035, around 32 percent of Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above.
Further challenges the industry faces include recruiting and retaining medical professionals; speeding up research; implementing a value-based system that truly prioritises patient health outcomes; and safeguarding data. Our research shows that healthcare practitioners in Asia-Pacific worry more about security than their global counterparts, with almost 60 percent describing it as a significant challenge. Close to half also struggle with cost control and business continuity.
These issues obstruct the industry from fulfilling its core purpose — to save lives. The effective adoption of technology will be central to allowing healthcare professionals to focus on what matters most. Bearing in mind the need for agility, flexibility and control, healthcare organisations recognise the need to build that technology on hybrid or multi-cloud models.
This approach will also help position the industry for further innovation in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and robotics, which are likely to play an increasing role in enhancing both operational efficiency and patients’ experience.
We are already seeing examples of successful transformation within healthcare institutions in the region. Across the border, Indonesian health insurance program provider, Mandiri Inhealth, upgraded its legacy systems with the cloud to improve system performance, streamline operations, and increase scalability. As a result, Mandiri Inhealth was able to demonstrate stronger system performance and reliability for its users, enabling it to scale its operations easily and ultimately better service its thousands of customers across the nation.
Technology should always be about making things better for people, and there are few areas where it can have more meaningful impact than healthcare. While invisible, the hybrid cloud will serve as the basis of better service, and ultimately better health, across Singapore.