Why a digital health ecosystem is closer to reality than you may think

  • career advice
  • March 22, 2017
Even as the debate over healthcare reform continues in Washington, there’s near-universal agreement among lawmakers, medical and life sciences professionals that healthcare has become too expensive. That’s why the healthcare sector, technology developers and the federal government have made creating a digital health ecosystem a priority. Their shared goal is to make it easier and more cost effective for providers, researchers and insurers to collaborate on the development of new treatments, provide higher standards of care and reduce insurance premiums. This nationwide effort is creating new career opportunities for life sciences professionals who can oversee the implementation and management of these technologies and best practices.
 

Goodbye paper

If someone mentions the words “medical records” to you, the first image that may come to mind is filling out forms when you visit a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital for the first time. If you think that’s a tedious, repetitive waste of time, imagine how your doctors, pharmacists and insurance providers feel. There’s an ongoing push to convert all that paper into digital files that all authorized personnel can access immediately.
 
Electronic health records (EHRs) enable medical and life sciences professionals to review not just the data collected during office visits, but data from all providers involved in your care. That gives them easy access to a much more comprehensive patient history today and tomorrow because your EHRs follow you if you move to a different state.
 
The move to a digital record system will have a major impact on both the healthcare and life sciences fields, as new and different jobs will be needed to ensure proper tracking and documentation of patients, their medication and the process to develop those drugs.
  

New technologies

The development of so-called Big Data collection and analysis technologies, artificial intelligence (A.I.) and Internet of Things (IoT) devices that constantly connect users to the Internet are speeding the transition to a digital health ecosystem.
 
Global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company reports that healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies and insurers have spent years collecting research data and patient records. Now they can use Big Data analytics solutions to improve decision-making processes and make sharing information with multiple sources easier.
 
Big Data mining is also fueling new developments in A.I. that may improve patient care by leveraging algorithms that mimic the predictive capabilities of human thought, or the body’s potential responses to various treatments.
 
Converting paper records into digital files is not the only source of Big Data creation. There’s an ever-growing number of IoT devices with medical applications from as simple as tracking your biometrics while you’re exercising to helping a doctor remotely monitor a patient’s vital signs – no office visit required.

The future is bright

Making real progress to creating a truly national digital health ecosystem requires professionals with a wide range of skillsets and expertise who can lead the development and implementation of new technologies and best practices that ensure information is readily availability for all appropriate personnel, while keeping those records out of the hands of bad actors. This means there will be myriad opportunities for life sciences professionals in a wide range of fields as a digital healthcare system becomes reality.

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