More than many other industries, healthcare is being disrupted by advances in digital technologies at a faster pace. Healthcare is one area where information technology and digital tools find some of the most appropriate applications. The magic touch of the fourth industrial revolution is making things possible in healthcare which were unimaginable a few decades ago, it is connecting information with machines and systems, and with people, helping them make sense of all the information

On one hand, we have a slew of gadgets used in diagnosis, monitoring, treatment and care, while on the other side things like big data, artificial intelligence, Internet of things, machine learning, and digitally augmented staff training are revolutionizing the industry with great number of possible applications. The influence of technology in medical industry in the present and in the future is best summed up in the following words by Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, “We are on the verge of a digital revolution across every aspect of the healthcare sector, from the lab bench to the patient’s bedside,” 

Patient Engagement via Digital Tools

Patient engagement is key to better healthcare outcomes. While hospitals compete to provide the best services and try to keep the hospital costs at control, at the same time, tech savvy consumers on the other end are giving a new shape to the healthcare service industry. Well informed consumers of today, accustomed to the customer oriented services provided by industries like e-commerce and banking, seek the same kind of expanded offerings in healthcare as well.

  • They seek best service providers with well-trained and courteous professionals
  • They want transparent and reasonable pricing
  • They can digitally self service appointments, payments and medical purchases
  • They want to be able to access their personal health data
  • They want online or doorstep health services wherever possible
  • They want their providers to educate them on all the aspects related to their health
  • They expect remote care for reduced visits, guidance and constant observation

As we live in an experience economy, digital presence is indispensable for hospitals and laboratories to remain competitive. Just like in retail, consumer experience, quality service and social approval are a necessity to win the trust of patients and their families. 

Point-of-Care Technologies

Point-of-Care Technologies is a set of technologies used at patient location. Point-of-care technologies add to the effectiveness and efficiency in healthcare delivery, leading to improved healthcare outcomes. Blood glucose monitors, urine dipsticks, pregnancy tests, rapid strep tests, rapid HIV tests, hemoglobin level tests are common examples of PoCT. 

PoC devices provide critical information to clinicians assisting in the management of patient care. Point-of-care technology enables diagnosis at home, in the hospital, in an ambulance, or in the field, it effectively delivers high quality of life care at the patient’s bedside, or in the corner of a consulting room, doing away with procedures that require an entire laboratory and long hours to arrive at a proper diagnosis. PoCT use minimal workflow processes, as the testing is performed at the bedside or in close proximity to the location of patient care.

Digital Therapeutics

Digital therapy utilizes digital or internet based tools to manage care, they add to the effectiveness of the ongoing treatment by managing patient behavior. Apps for managing medications are the most common examples of digital therapy, they help patients remember to take their medications at the right time and in right dosage, this is helpful for patients who are on a high pill burden and a complex routine. There are other kinds of digital therapies, apps which help cardiovascular patients improve their lifestyles, apps which can psychologically intervene anxiety, etc.

Enhanced Staff Training Through Digital Tools

Continual training and skill development of healthcare staff is as important as implementing various other strategies for better patient outcomes, it should be a top priority for any organization that wants to provide outstanding services. Training inculcates the most current knowledge in employees, and in addition it boosts employee morale and keeps them engaged, all of it leading to better patient outcomes. A comprehensive training strategy for hospitals should include easy access to learning resources, assessments and validations, and personalized and interactive learning.

Digital tools can be vital for healthcare learning and training, with advanced online learning platforms like iPC Health, everybody learns at their own pace and convenience. It also provides other advantages like time and cost effectiveness, anytime anywhere access, interactive content, feedbacks and other automation features.

  • Courses can be made interactive for enhanced learning outcomes
  • Convenience of anywhere, anytime, and any device access
  • Automation reduces time and effort in administration, evaluation and reporting
  • Error free reports can be generated and stored for future reference
  • Management and instructors have real-time access to progress as per plans

Gearing up for the Future

As it is evident that technology is transforming the medical industry and the way medical care is provided, organizations can’t afford to lag behind in the race for technology implementation. In the end what matters for hospitals is the patient outcome, and the best of it can only be achieved with the help of most current technologies. We already derive great benefits from digital tools in healthcare delivery, but the future is going to be completely different, things like intelligent surgical knives, mobile diagnosis of diseases like cancer, 3d printed medicines and organs are already on prototype stage. In distant future we might even be able to upload our minds to a computer and never die, or at least continue to live on in a digital form.

After going through multiple phases of evolution healthcare industry is now largely driven by technology as the reach and impact of technology has become pervasive in modern healthcare systems. From various tech gadgets and contrivances to advanced interventions like gene therapy, tailored medicines, regrowing damaged body parts, ‘intelligent’ surgical knife for cancer detection and robotic surgical systems, technology is used consistently in the delivery of vital healthcare and life-saving procedures.

Point-of-Care Technologies is a set of technologies used at the location of patient care helping improve healthcare outcomes. Blood glucose monitors, urine dipsticks, pregnancy tests, rapid strep tests, rapid HIV tests, hemoglobin level tests are common examples of PoCT.  In past few years PoCT have advanced and the field is showing strong growth, as evidenced by new clinical or consumer products research and development directions. The widespread use of this set of technologies is driven by healthcare emphasis shifting towards greater healthcare awareness, precision treatment, optimization of patient management process, and chronic disease management – combined with advances in electronic devices and information technology.

Point-of-care technologies add to the effectiveness and efficiency in healthcare delivery, PoC devices provide critical information to clinicians assisting in the management of patient care. Point-of-care technology enables diagnosis at home, in the hospital, in an ambulance, or in the field, it effectively delivers high quality of life care at the patient’s bedside, or in the corner of a consulting room, doing away with procedures that require an entire laboratory and long hours to arrive at a proper diagnosis. PoCT use minimal workflow processes, as the testing is performed at the bedside or in close proximity to the location of patient care. Determination of need for testing is made at the bedside with the testing being implemented within a short time frame.

The advantages of PoCT are manifold for the current healthcare requirements

Point-of-Care procedures involve faster and leaner processes as testing is done on bedside and fewer steps are necessary to produce the result.

  • They eliminate the need for processing and aliquoting, transporting the specimen to the laboratory, and communicating results back to the clinical staff. 
  • Faster access to test results allow for rapid clinical decision making, enabling more-appropriate treatments and interventions.
  • PoCT methods require smaller sample volumes than those needed for traditional laboratory testing.
  • PoCT can also help reduce the frequency of testing errors like, inappropriate sampling errors, errors while preparation or packaging of samples, overwhelming testing protocols and steps, and patient misidentification.
  • The fact that POCT is often performed by the individual providing care to the patient may help decrease post analytical errors due to incorrect transmission of test results

POC technologies and diagnostics are ideal for the special constraints of diverse clinical settings, including homes, rural areas, acute care settings, ambulatory care and clinical research centers. Also, the in-premise application of POCT are endless, including intensive care units, neonatal care units, radiology and imaging suites, emergency care, operating rooms, renal dialysis units, diabetic clinics, delivery facilities, practitioners’ offices, outpatient and off-site clinics, nursing homes, pharmacies and in-home patient care

Reduced Workload

PoCT devices maintain patient data in digital format which helps nurses with quick access of patient information. The shift from paper documentation that involves manually created charts, to central digital access with smart graphics, reduces the workload for nurses and saves them considerable time, while the associated margin of error is reduced

RCNi UK’s Decision Support (DS) tool is one example of an advanced Point-of-Care technology, the interactive online and mobile resource, built by Impelsys, helps nurses and healthcare professionals at the time and location of decision making. The DS tool supports practitioners in arriving at informed decisions at bedside or location of care, within 20 -30 minutes of presentation of a variety of conditions or situations. RCNi DST is UK’s only point-of-care Decision Support Tool designed specifically for nurses working in community and hospital settings.

Future of POCT

The fast evolving healthcare industry has led to increasing investments in R&D on PoCT, this aids to the growth of PoCT diagnostic market globally, which is expected to surpass US $30 billion in the year 2020. Point-of-care devices are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, the lab-on-a-chip capabilities of the latest generation point-of-care tests offer on-time patient care, and even analysis of human and pathogen genomic data to accelerate more appropriate and personalized therapies. Combined with the appropriate strategies for clinical needs assessment, validation, and implementation, these and future POCTs may significantly affect healthcare and associated outcomes and costs.

There is an additional potential in point-of-care devices and tools getting personalized for individual patients, enabled by advances in genomic and precision medicine, this can maximize the desired health impact at the individual and population levels. These expectations have fueled tremendous advances in the science and technology of POC diagnostic device development. the impact of PoCT on healthcare has not yet been fully reached and it’s a long way to go.