The global community celebrated International Universal Health Coverage Day on December 12 2019, commemorating a resolution endorsed by the UN urging countries to accelerate progress towards the idea that everyone, everywhere should have access to affordable, quality health care.

In the spirit of this UN resolution, diverse health care stakeholders face the challenge of consolidating their expertise towards a shared vision of eradicating inequality in health care, while keeping costs down and improving quality.  

Leading technology firms need to advise on the necessary digital transformation to support and expedite the delivery of affordable, quality health care. But they should guard against deploying solutions hastily without conducting a thorough analysis of the underlying processes and workflows.

Digital transformation in health care is not just about technology: it is about enhancing both clinical and administrative operations, with technology as an enabler, to improve patient experience and achieve health and business outcomes. This means technology companies that want to have a positive impact must understand the relationships that underpin specific health care ecosystems: 

  • the provider-payer relationship;
  • the distributor–pharmacist relationship;
  • the employer-payer relationship; and
  • the consumer relationship across the board.

Through the application of design thinking, technology companies must first map each user journey and localise every touchpoint along the health care value chain within the various ecosystems.

Because about 70% of digital transformation initiatives fail at the level of social and organisational culture, and not necessarily on the technical shortcomings of the solution, such a people-centred approach will lead to a more user-centric deployment of technology and increase uptake by both staff and patients. 

Creating a more efficient health care system

SA’s aspirations for attaining universal health coverage is being pursued through the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, which is essentially free health care services at the point of contact, paid for behind the scenes through the pooling of funds using four instruments proposed in the bill now before parliament.

The NHI envisions the seamless movement of patients along the different levels of care, and across the public and private health care systems. The intended core model of the NHI and the desired patient mobility across health care require reliable patient information and real-time data exchange as the system’s backbone. 

For our health care system to function optimally and deliver on the promise of access and quality, health care providers need to accelerate the adoption of electronic medical records in their day-to-day operations. This includes not just hospital groups and clinics, but also GPs, pharmacists and pathology laboratories. They also need to collaborate to establish an electronic master patient index (EMPI) as a centralised database of all patient clinical records. 

To accelerate the building of the EMPI, health care organisations need to speed up their individual cloud strategies and collaborate on a purpose-built health community cloud that houses clinical and operational data that will be accessible to clinicians, administrators, policymakers, researchers and educational institutions.

An under-resourced country like SA, with a doctor-to-patient ratio estimated at 1:1,200, must use technology to produce more health care professionals through virtual-reality and mixed-reality platforms, cloud computing and telepresence. 

The adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs) must be regulated and standardised to ensure interoperability and seamless data exchange across centres.

Domestically, the national health normative standards framework for interoperability, commissioned by the health department and compiled by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, provides guidelines for deploying EMRs. These include a focus on thematic areas such as HL7 compliance, FHIR, ICD-10 and DRG codes.

At a global level, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has established EMRAM, which is an eight-tier EMR adoption model that lets health organisations assess their technological maturity and follow a standardised approach in the adoption of EMRs. 

Once this EMR backbone has been established, health organisations are then able to use advances such as artificial intelligence, analytics and centralised command centres to improve quality of care and provide business insight that enables evidence-based decision-making. 

But the core of digital transformation in health care is consistent and reliable infrastructure. Without robust connectivity, it is impossible to harness the rest of the amazing advances in technology to improve health care.

This means health organisations must be equally interested in the discussion on spectrum, because this has a direct effect on the speed and bandwidth necessary to transmit large files as in radiology and oncology and to maintain a reliable connection to deliver telemedicine or distant health care. 

As a systems integrator and network provider, BCX has extensive experience in supporting health care and life-science organisations navigate the entire digital stack, from connectivity infrastructure to secured storage, cloud computing, devices, services and analytics. 

Its dedicated focus on health care is built around working with health care organisations as strategic partners to achieve these overarching outcomes: 

  • data-driven digital transformation to deliver insight for quality health care and reduce costs; and
  • use design thinking and omni-channels to enable people-centred care and improve user experience.

Placing data management at the centre of efficient health care, BCX provides secured on-premise and cloud solutions for reliable data exchange, analytics and artificial intelligence that support the operations, planning and decision-making of both clinicians and administrators.

Gartner reports that 30%–50% of enterprise traffic is shifting to the cloud, changing traffic flows and making traditional wide-area networking (WAN) suboptimal. It estimates that by 2020, more than 50% of WAN-edge refresh initiatives will be based on software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN).

BCX integrates the latest software-defined capabilities into a suite of SD-WAN solutions in partnership with leading networking vendors. Its SD-WAN suite offers solutions guaranteed to meet any requirement — from cost-effective small-branch solutions to complex, enterprise-grade products. Its multi-vendor ecosystem also allows clients to mix and match different vendors’ elements to create a truly customised solution, optimising cost efficiencies. 

BCX’s applications have a pleasurable and intuitive user interface to improve clients’ experience. It has 147,000km of network infrastructure and connectivity across SA, and the knowledge and skills to create workable solutions to some of the country’s pressing problems. It supports, for example, mission-critical services such as ambulances that need to be in constant contact with dispatch centres. 

The company’s deep understanding of both the health care industry and technology solutions, and its ability to integrate the two in an innovative manner, deliver value for its clients. 

To achieve meaningful change in the health care sector and to achieve the efficiencies made possible by going digital, you need to choose a partner that can travel the full journey with you. BCX is that partner for you.  

About the author: Nkosi Kumalo is managing executive at BCX.

This article was paid for by BCX.

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