Healthcare Decoded – The Digital Revolution

The year 2008, I have been in the Healthcare IT industry for approximately seven years. Until this point in my career, my primary focus was to grow on the technical side of IT. During this time, I was also pursing my MBA and we had a subject “Operations Management”. As part of the curriculum, we were given a task to read a Book – “The Goal” by  Eliyahu M. Goldratt. The storyline is focused on improving operations of a production plant but there is one question which Jonah asks Alex (the plant manager) “What is the Goal of a company?”  The answer to the question is straight forward, “The Goal of a company is to make money/profit.” The first edition of the book was published in 1984, but this question/answer is still relevant and applicable for any company/organization. Consider the current scenario, the world has come to a standstill, operations of many organizations shut/reduced. In short, organizations unable to maintain profitability are impacted the most. If analyze this further, we will notice, there isn’t any operational challenge rather a Business challenge due to a “change in priorities/focus”.

The world has been forced to look at alternate mediums to keep their business running, primarily through digitization e.g. Education, Retail or even the Food industry. I have been in the Health IT industry for 18 years, but I have never seen so much focus on Healthcare IT worldwide. Organizations across the globe have been forced to look at different options to keep their revenues (especially outpatient) going.

Did you know that Telemedicine was conceptualized for the first time in 1920s by Hugo Gernsback. He named it as teledactyl literally meaning “Feel at a distance.” It has taken 100 years for the world to truly recognize the business potential of Telehealth/Telemedicine primary because everyone has been forced to think differently.  In April 2020, BCBS Massachusetts announced that they processed 250K telemedicine claims, overall a 3600% increase over Feb 2020 and 5100% increase over 2019. The numbers speak for themselves, prior to this the target market by Telemedicine providers was primarily rural areas, now the market is almost everyone. The advent of COVID-19 has also resulted in a spike of Home Monitoring devices. For telemedicine to be successful the physician needs to monitor specific patient vitals like SpO2, BP, Sugar else it will just be another WhatsApp chat. Organizations like Healthkon have their own medical devices capable of monitoring multiple parameters (ECG, Spo2, Sugar and others) in one device. Another aspect to be considered here is how can you share this information/data on a real time basis with the physician. Like humans communicate with each other, Healthcare technology/devices/systems are capable of speaking with each using specific Technology standards viz EDI/HL7/CCD/CCR/CCDA and the latest being FHIR. If you are from a non-technical background just consider these standards as a common language spoken by various Health IT systems. Each language/standard though different from each has a purpose, example EDI is a language of communication between Hospitals and Payors/Insurance companies. If you hear the word CCD you might instantaneously think “Café Coffee Day”, but no it is “Continuity of Care Record” and is a standard of a sharing a snapshot the patient’s information with another Hospital.

Healthcare’s digital revolution has already begun, as everyone around the world is keeping an eye on Healthcare. If you are interested in understanding the basics of Health IT, grab a copy of my book “Healthcare Decoded – Begin your health IT Journey” available worldwide on Amazon Kindle. 

By the way, if you look back, the Spanish flu of 1918 could be the reason for conceptualizing Telemedicine/ teledactyl. 

Author : Harish C. Rijhwani is an IT professional with 17+ years of experience, particularly working with US-based entities in the healthcare sector, delivering value to clients through technology and business services.

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