Penny Pinnock (pictured below), business development manager at Siemens Financial Services UK (SFS), looks at how healthcare organisations can utilise and pay for digital and AI-driven technologies to deliver significant benefits to delivery of care, patient outcomes, and operational costs
Smart, digitally-advanced hospitals are becoming increasingly common, but funding this evolution means looking to the private sector for flexible financing solutions
In recent years, digital capabilities in healthcare technology have been shown to enable greater access and productivity, early diagnosis, and contribute to better outcomes across the world.
Most healthcare organisations have already embarked on digital transformation and are now looking at speed of implementation, along with providing evidence of tangible outcomes, to inspire budget holders and maintain momentum in their digital transformation journeys.
According to academic, governmental, and analyst commentators, the strategic approach to digital transformation is to establish a ‘digital thread’ running through healthcare organisations and systems. This allows digitalised capabilities to be connected all the way along the patient pathway, helping to achieve significant outcome improvements, clinical effectiveness, and cost reductions.
An example of one of these digital capabilities is the use of new AI technology in healthcare, with medical imaging being an area with significant potential for its application.
The strategic approach to digital transformation is to establish a ‘digital thread’ running through healthcare organisations and systems
As one academic paper notes: “Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, particularly deep learning, have demonstrated remarkable progress in image-recognition tasks… AI methods excel at automatically recognising complex patterns in imaging data and providing quantitative, rather than qualitative, assessments of radiographic characteristics.”
Remote telesurgery is another digital capability rapidly growing in popularity.
A recent study noted that while there remain some adoption obstacles, the COVID-19 pandemic experience shows its value and viability.
The study notes that: “Telesurgery or remote surgery is a promising surgical advancement... Zero-latency time and improvement in haptic feedback technology are required for precise and well-done surgeries. Technologies like 5G network, IoT, and tactile robotics should be integrated in telesurgery to overcome these barriers. Cost and legalisation to address legal and ethical issues remain to be addressed. Robotic surgery can demonstrate a pivotal role in the surgical procedures being performed in the… pandemic by minimizing the number of surgical staff in the operation theatres, hence curtailing the risk of COVID-19 infection that can subsequently lead to profound morbidity and mortality.”
The necessary investment in healthcare technology – and its projected growth over the next five years – is substantial, yet it cannot generally be afforded through available capital expenditure budgets in healthcare systems
For healthcare systems the world over, enabling these digital investments makes a disproportionately-positive contribution to efficiency and effectiveness in healthcare delivery, healthcare access, and patient outcomes (short-term and long-term, reducing the social cost of rising overall demand and lifetime healthcare costs).
According to research, the necessary investment in healthcare technology – and its projected growth over the next five years – is substantial, yet it cannot generally be afforded through available capital expenditure budgets in healthcare systems.
This is the case both for ageing equipment that needs replacement and upgrading, as well as for newer technologies on the market whose benefits have only recently emerged.
To boost the availability of capital with which digital transformation can be achieved, the healthcare sector must harness private sector finance to enable a digital, commercial, clinical, and sustainable transition.
Private sector finance – usually from specialist financiers with a deep understanding of the technology and its applications – plays a crucial role in enabling the development and digitalisation of healthcare systems all around the world.
Upgrading ageing or obsolete equipment and technology can provide clinicians, care staff, and administration with greater productivity, efficiency, and healthcare effectiveness.
And specialist financing partners will flex financing periods to help fit digital equipment upgrades into current and projected cash flow requirements.
Such smart financing also aligns payments with the rate and value of benefits gained, which means healthcare organisations can acquire the best equipment option for their clinical and care needs because flexible financing makes all options affordable.
To boost the availability of capital with which digital transformation can be achieved, the healthcare sector must harness private sector finance to enable a digital, commercial, clinical, and sustainable transition
As well as existing equipment, new digital technology can make a step-change difference in the effectiveness of healthcare access and delivery.
Where the additional benefits and improved outcomes from new technology will be gained over time, smart financing arrangements can be structured to reflect the impact of those benefits.
Not only can the length of the financing period be adjusted, but low-start and seasonally-variable payments are all possible and can be aligned with the expected outcomes. This provides critical assistance to organisations seeking to manage pressurised operating expenditures.
Furthermore, pioneering technology vendors are now increasingly working with healthcare organisations in a partnership model.
In such arrangements, the technology provider agrees on a service level that it commits to provide – encompassing equipment/technology maintenance, service, uptime, and sometimes even human skills and outsourced peak demand management.
Underpinning these managed services arrangements are smart financing structures that make them work for providers and healthcare organisation alike.
The need to refresh healthcare’s existing technology base goes hand in hand with the equally-urgent need to acquire emerging digital technologies.
The global COVID crisis clearly demonstrated the value – in terms of both efficiency and patient outcomes – of digital transformation in the healthcare sector.
Partnering with a smart solutions provider allows healthcare organisations to achieve radical, data and evidence-driven change through digital transformation
In light of these drivers of change, each month that passes without progress on digital transformation is regarded by healthcare digitalisation pioneers as a month in which healthcare resources have not been efficiently deployed, people’s professional time has not been effectively managed, costs have not been optimised, and patient outcome improvements have not been implemented.
But transformation cannot be funded by the public purse alone.
Private sector finance is playing a critical role in enabling the digital transition.
Partnering with a smart solutions provider allows healthcare organisations to achieve radical, data and evidence-driven change through digital transformation – improving patient outcomes, reducing both immediate and lifetime healthcare costs, and deploying scarce clinical and care skills more efficiently and effectively.