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Keeping A Finger On The Pulse Of Healthcare’s Digital Transformation

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Nov. 10, 2022, 10:05 a.m.

There’s no question that digital transformation has had a profound effect on many industries, and while uptake may have been a little slower within the healthcare sector, the outlook for the future of African healthtech is a promising one.

So said Brian Smith, Technical Consultant at Datacentrix, a hybrid IT systems integrator, and managed services provider. He was speaking at the organization’s inaugural Healthcare Indaba event, which was held to bring together technology leaders and local healthcare industry players to discuss critical trends and insights within the sector.

Current healthcare technology trends

According to ManageEngine, the IT management division of Zoho Corporation, technology trends in healthcare currently include:

  • Remote health monitoring – the use of technology to monitor a patient’s health outside the clinical environment, involving the data exchange between various applications or devices to connect patients and providers;
  • Smart hospitals – the integration of electronic health records (EHR) systems to exchange real-time data, such as operating rooms’ schedules and monitoring hospitals’ facility rooms, to help improve the patient’s experience and quality of care;
  • Cloud migration – the secure storage and data exchange of patient health information within the cloud; and
  • Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and analytics – using AI and predictive analytics to effectively build detailed industry insights with a view to improving proactive preventive care.

The rise of OT in the healthcare arena

“The healthcare industry is seeing a major shift towards operational technology (OT), fuelled by the requirement for greater patient personalization, to provide value-driven care that helps improve members’ health and increase their quality of life,” Smith stated.

According to the Gartner Glossary, operational technology (OT) can be described as ‘hardware and software that detects or causes a change through the direct monitoring and/ or control of industrial equipment, assets, processes, and events.’

The difference between IT (information technology) and OT encompasses software and endpoint devices, such as computers and servers, which manage the flow of data, while OT refers to the technologies used for managing and controlling an organization’s industrial operations.

“What must be remembered within this environment is that OT goes hand-in-hand with digital transformation, especially when it comes to digital assets, for example, digital documents and images, which are more frequently in use now than ever.”

In his Healthcare Indaba 2022 talk, which was jointly presented with ManageEngine, Smith covered the opportunities for businesses within this sector to improve their OT functions and the projected benefits such advancements would bring.

“One vital component of OT improvement is the personalization of patient care. Here, patient records are integrated across departments, providing a single pane of consistent information to provide patients with personalized care and support efficiently. This serves to enrich patient engagement, as the flow of data across the organization allows for more efficient coordination between departments, which in turn reduces the wait time of patients.

“Greater personalization also enables healthcare workers to collaborate and discuss certain high case patients in real-time with their peers and provide procedures, while keeping all those involved updated through comprehensive document management.”

In addition, more efficient OT operations allow for streamlined service management. “Here, it is possible to enhance employees’ experience by ensuring consistent service delivery and operations management across different service departments, such as human resources (HR), facilities, and legal departments.

“Creating workflows for seamless day-to-day operations helps staff shift the focus from low priorities to critical issues, and the automation of repetitive processes and implementation of self-service portals for patients both reduce healthcare providers’ workloads.”

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The importance of network and endpoint management

Next on the agenda, according to Smith, is better network management. “It is possible to track and connect medical equipment in your network and gain visibility through a configuration management database (CMDB). Furthermore, AI can be harnessed to proactively monitor and troubleshoot critical applications, servers, and other network devices to ensure continuous availability.

“From a network management point of view, it is also possible to manage the entire life cycle of IT assets, from procurement to disposal, while maintaining inventory and managing purchase orders to reduce spending.”

Finally, Smith explained the monitoring and management of endpoints are significant. “Better management of endpoint devices means that it is possible to track licenses and warranties on assets and set alerts if a device doesn’t check in with the server over a predefined time frame. There is an opportunity to maintain and view a record of all processing operations related to electronically protected health information (ePHI) stored on multiple endpoints, allowing healthcare workers to access this data easily.

“At the same time, role-based privileges are enforced with endpoint privilege management to prevent unauthorized access to ePHI. Corporate devices can be protected with geo-fencing, ensuring devices leaving the geofence are automatically marked as non-compliant, which immediately triggers notifications to administrators and device users to execute security commands.

“From telemedicine and implanted devices to wearables tracking our health on a day-to-day basis and genomics, the healthcare field has never been so intensely technology-driven. And as more and more health-related devices come online, the management and securing of these endpoints – as well as all related data - has become increasingly critical,” he concluded.

About Datacentrix:

Datacentrix is a leading hybrid IT systems integrator and managed services provider that enables digitalization success.

Our expert teams leverage the power of ICT technologies to connect, transform, optimize, and future-proof businesses, supporting clients throughout their digital journey.

Datacentrix offers deep technical expertise across a mature offering and provides proven execution capability that the world’s foremost technology partners endorse. With a strong African footprint, the company is recognized for its agility, in-depth industry knowledge, ethical practices, and strong overall performance.

The company is a Level One (AAA) B-BBEE Contributor, with 135 percent procurement recognition.

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