Digital healthcare definition

This article continues the series of Code Inspiration’s articles about digital transformation to E-Government

Just in case, we remind that E-Government means transfer of administrative functions to digital format. E-government means that state authorities offer citizens to carry out state services online, be it purchasing a city transport travel pass, online business registration, entering a university etc. Or book a visit to a doctor. Let’s see what the Public Healthcare module of the E-Government system should look like.

Thus, digital healthcare means automation of healthcare, application of information technologies making all the processes run in a digital form.

The article might be not interesting for readers from advanced digital countries, because the author lives in Belarus where E-Government services development is considered to be an emerging activity. What’s more, the opinion is based on the local public healthcare system applied here in Belarus and CIS countries, where the majority of people uses state healthсare services, which are free of сharge and the quality of services is not satisfying sometimes. Anyway, we suppose that the article’s core ideas of digital healthcare within the E-government system are relevant to any healthcare system in any country. 


Digital healthcare benefits for citizens

Let’s pretend the healthcare system has already become fully digital and runs as a module of the whole E-Government service. The implementation of the system made possible:

For citizens:

  • To book a visit to any doctor in any medical facility
  • To get a personal account and see: 
    • his/her medical report and records, 
    • aggregated doctor’s advice and prescriptions – E-Prescriptions, 
    • past and schedule of upcoming vaccinations, 
    • other relevant information.   
  • Telemedicine: request and carry out online consultation with a doctor.

digital healthcare services development

The image is illustrative.

Digital healthcare benefits for state authorities

Development of a state digital healthcare system will make possible or state authorities:

  • To have a clear vision of the public healthcare system state of things.
  • To see end-to-end real time analytics on:
    • Number of patients by day/month/year and its dynamics
    • Number of disease incidences and its dynamics
    • Availability of healthcare services. For instance, how many doctors-subspecialists there are and are they capable of providing medical consultations to all the patients. The same situation with local medical units: booking a visit a month in advance will show there are not enough doctors in the given medical facility
    • Successful/unsuccessful treatment for further analysis.
  • To redirect  patients to doctors in other medical facilities with doctors available.
  • To plan the budget in a more efficient way on the basis of real-time information and statistics. It will be possible to make predictions on the future demand in medical facilities and doctors.

Summarizing the above, we want to underline that citizens are main beneficiaries of an E-Government healthcare service development. On the whole, the main aim of making the public healthcare system digital within the entire E-Government is enhancing healthcare services for citizens.

Digital healthcare development risks 

  • Personal data breach – should be addressed at a data security level which is applied to any state information system development. Surely, with the announcement of a breach testing challenge where anyone can take part.  
  • More risks TBD.

Digital healthcare development challenges

There will be some challenges on the way to digital healthcare system development. Among the principle are:

  1. Implementation of infrastructure for the needs of the system: servers for data storage and processing as well as computers, tablets, laptops for doctors. And, surely, maintenance of this infrastructure.
  2. Transfer of data from paper records to digital format. – A very complex issue. Probably, it could be addressed by letting people decide whether to participate or not to participate in digital document flow. If a person refuses to go digital, doctors continue his\her records using paper forms. Such an approach will make the process last several dozens of years, but people must not be forced to go digital. We believe that gradually there will be a great number of users who are considered to be digitally active and will be ready to use the service.
  3. To study people use the system. Here we mean all the parties to the process:  patients, doctors, state authorities, medical administrators. Probably, doctors – representatives of the older generation will refuse to learn a new computer system. They should not be forced – the right to keep working “in the old fashion” must be granted.
  4. Design and develop the software itself. The task to develop a state-level digital healthcare system as a part of E-Government service is a complex one. Even the stage of requirements engineering may take months, and this is only the beginning of a long road of digital transformation ahead. By the way, doctors must become the principal source of requirements. Exactly the doctors who work with patients directly every day, should tell the developers how the future information system should work. Doctors’ interests must also be taken into account, they should be comfortable using the developed information system. 
  5. Elaborate current processes that take place in the healthcare system. And make sure they work fine. We have a recent example from Russia, where the national project “Digital state of healthcare” is being realized. Since recently citizens are able to book a visit to a doctor via a single online portal of state services. For 2020, 63.5 million of requests were registered. And only 17% of ALL the requests were successful. More than 52 million of requests were rejected due to the following reasons: 43% – no booking slots to necessary doctors, 13% – no necessary doctors-subspecialists, 16% – error of checking patient’s data, 2% – no medical facilities available, 10% – other errors. Thus, it looks like there is a great challenge to deal with shortage of doctors-specialists as well as manage load on existing doctors firstly, and start digital transformation after. (Source: May Decree – non-governmental organization for May Decree execution audit, Telegram channel). 
  6. Analyze experience in the sphere of healthcare system digitization of other digitally advanced countries. And probably, cooperate with them.

Final thoughts on digital healthcare

We would like to stop here. Surely, there are still more details to talk about, but we suppose such a high-level description of a state digital healthcare service is enough. Going deeper seems difficult enough because it is necessary to take into consideration state and private healthcare systems, existence of health insurance etc. These are questions a team of analysts will have to deal with prior to any digital healthcare system software development.

Digital healthcare system is an inevitable future. One of the digital healthcare system development results will be the existence of a big amount of data about medical histories and treatment performed. Deep analysis of these data will make it possible to improve future methods of treatment and help doctors to treat better. By the way, there is an interesting idea to develop a digital assistant, which a doctor can consult and find similar cases and treatment records with results and decide how to treat a given patient better.

Make good E-Government services and don’t make bad E-Government services!digital healthcare services development

The image is illustrative.