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How COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation in healthcare

COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our world: our routines, relationships, jobs, and every single aspect of our lives. Besides the humanitarian tragedy, we now all know the terrible effects it had on economy and business.

Luckily, the situation have brought some positive things too, we saw how innovation and collaboration became the keys to start many social projects and how citizens, associations and private companies took a step forward and developed solutions for many of the new problems that this pandemic brought.

It seems that the long-expected #DigitalTransformation has finally found the correct timing to invade the most traditional markets. This is the case of the #Healthcare sector. According a survey presented in the Digital Health Technology Vision 2020 of Accenture [1], 85% of health executives believe that technology has become an inextricable part of life, and 70% of global consumers expect it to become an even bigger part of their lives in the next three years. A clear national example of that is that the Stada Health Report 2020 [2] presents that 82% of Spanish are willing to accept medical appointments online as an alternative to the presential ones, while the European average is around 70%.

As a reaction of that change of the mindset, many deep-tech projects, which were unimaginable before the pandemic, have been started, evolve or boosted-up in the last months, incredibly fast and crossing boards. An example is the AI algorithm announced in China that diagnoses COVID-19 in 20 seconds (almost 45 times faster than human detection) with more than 95% percent accuracy. Or how the company Wing accelerated the adoption of the drone delivery service to serve the residents who are staying home due to the lockdown. The drone delivery of supplies has been unsuccessfully studied as a faster and more ecologist alternative to traditional transportation by many companies, but after the pandemic it seems to be closer than ever.

These are examples of how the situation has changed priorities and how technologies which have been available for a long time finally seems to have find their moment to be widely used.

But, without any doubt, the technologies whose usage have been increased exponentially in the last months in all areas of healthcare sector are artificial intelligence and big data. According to [1], 69% of healthcare organizations said that they are piloting or adopting AI technology, plugging it into existing workflows to automate processes, to screen and triage patients using chatbots, and to reconfigure supply chains, among other things. The main reason is the huge collaboration that happened across the world between doctors and scientists or engineers and the recent availability of massive open data. As a clear example of it, Kaggle, a data management platform, hosts the Covid-19 Open Research Dataset, which compiles relevant data adding new research into one centralized hub. The new data set is machine readable, making it easily parsed for AI machine learning purposes.

However, 70% of healthcare consumers surveyed in [1] said they are concerned about data privacy and commercial tracking associated with their online activities, behaviours, location, and interests. To combat that concern, the report suggests that healthcare organizations must ensure that their operating models are equipped to handle the ownership of consumer data.

So, the next big challenge will be how to continue the collaborative development and open innovation assuring the right usage of data and the private rights of citizens. Hopefully, the cooperation between countries in Europe taking into account the opinion of researchers and business experts will helps to create a new legislation, which allows to find a balance between the empowerment of the development of new technologies and projects and the protection of their population.


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