Digital Transformation

Digital transformation in the healthcare industry: what are the opportunities?

For the past few years, the healthcare industry has been facing a major upheaval: the digitalization of its process and the development of “e-health”. The term e-health was defined as the combined use of the Internet and information technology for clinical, educational and administrative purposes, both locally and remotely.  Here are the four major topics that cover the digital transformation in the healthcare industry.

Transformation of the relationship between patients and medical practitioners

The digitalization of the healthcare industry has changed the behavior of patients. Twenty years ago, the patient was only considered as “sick” and “simple spectator” of his health. Today, patients have become experts.

They learn about the pathologies they have through Internet, can share their problems via social media, and can reach a high level of awareness of their illness. An informed patient is more rational and has a better ability to make choices for his health.

The medical information is accessible through different channels: virtual patient communities, forums, social networks, expert websites, Internet of Things (IoT)… They are therefore regarded as “patient-expert” “patients 2.0” or “e-patients”.

This has changed the relationship between the medical practitioner and the patient. The “expert” patient plays an active role in the care process and facilitates communication with the doctor. This relationship is reinforced if the doctor himself uses Internet as a support for communication with his patients.

The evolution of telemedicine

Today, we hear more and more about telemedicine on e-health. This medical practice allows the doctor to diagnose a patient and prescribe medication from a distance.

Telemedicine changes the relationship between doctor and patient because consultations are done by teleconference or video. Telemedicine was set up to fight against medical deserts, improve hospital emergency services and address the problem of equal care.

Telemedicine also helps to overcome the lack of doctors in certain medical specialties.  On the other hand, geographical distance can lead to a psychological distance between caregivers and patients.

IoT in the healthcare industry

According to Statistica, there are more than 20 billion connected objects in the world in 2018. IoT in healthcare industry is increasing everyday and it is going to change significantly our daily life and our way of considering our own health.

Connected objects and applications are new tools for health prevention : people are now able to check their health indicators and give them early diagnosis of diseases and therefore better treatment. They can follow the evolution of their physical form, their diet or their sleep amongst other things.

Other connected objects also allow patients who suffer from chronic diseases to better manage the latter. There are applications to control your blood pressure, your heart rate, your blood glucose level. Many pharmaceutical companies develop these applications for a better follow-up of their patient.

Thanks to this accurate monitoring, people are alerted as soon as the data is red (too high tension, too fast pulse, arrhythmia …). This alert can contact their doctors immediately.

According to Grand View Research, the global health sector will invest nearly $410 billion in IoT devices, software and services in 2022. In 2017, the market value was $46 billion.

These factors include the increase in the average age of the world’s population, the higher prevalence of diseases such as diabetes and obesity, and the increasing demand for health surveillance solutions.

Big data and patients data

Thanks to Big Data, healthcare professionals will be able to carry out data analysis of patients. They have the capacity to use algorithms helping them in the relevance, speed and quality of diagnosis of new diseases.

Thanks to people’s personal data on the Internet, it is also possible to create the medical profile of a patient. It is a source of information for insurance companies, banks, employers or even hackers.

The question of data poses a real problem when we talk about medical privacy. Data security and ethical issues, related to the development of health applications and digitalization of the care path. This medical digitalization must be regulated because the investment of GAFAM (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft) in the health market is growing, and our health data may be used around the world.

About the author

Marion Lefébure

Marion Lefébure

Work @Sanofi as Digital Project Officer - Innovation & Business Excellence