Digitization of healthcare will change the way the industry works

15 september 2017

The Telehealth Act signed in July this year, amended a wide range of regulations governing the use of IT in healthcare and legally defined the term "telehealth technologies" to ensure the remote communication of doctors and patients. The First Deputy Head of the Analytical Center, Vladislav Onishchenko, spoke about the digitalization of health and the prospects for its ubiquitous implementation at the Biotekhmed-2017 forum.

The issue of how fast digital technologies will be penetrating the healthcare market was a key question in the discussion of digital healthcare development prospects. The best case scenario is 5 years, the real world expectation is by 2025. "This is going to happen pretty fast in the segments where there is enough demand for paid services, first of all in the private healthcare sector. As for the public healthcare, things are bound to be happening slow there," Mr. Onishchenko believes.

Russia is ready to introduce digital technologies in healthcare seeing how we are not the first country following this path, we can simply import solutions that have already been tested elsewhere, Mr. Onischenko believes. 

"When it comes to the digitization of healthcare, an important issue is the commercialization of existing technologies," the expert believes. "Many things do not have to be invented because technologically they are already designed and implemented, we just need to adapt them to our conditions."

The development of the digital economy goes hand in hand with the development of the human capital and improvement of the quality of life, where healthcare is a cornerstone, Mr. Onishchenko said.  And if the distance education trend in our country has already been going strong for quite some time, it is only emerging in healthcare. "If faced with a choice between no healthcare for objective reasons or telehealth, people will naturally choose telehealth even though it may be something they are not yet quite used to," Mr. Onishchenko said.

The Telehealth Act has laid an important foundation for the process, however, at the current level there are still some problems that are yet to be addressed, not to mention the development of any advanced technology, the expert stressed.

For example, market participants had expected that the Act would allow remote primary diagnoses, but this did not happen. The expert community has other complains and proposals for how to improve the new Act.

The human resources potential is an important issue. There are concerns that telehealth will eventually cut the number of medical workers. However, British researchers have estimated that a one-time reduction in healthcare staff in the context of digital health development will lead to a twofold increase in the number of IT technicians and engineers employed by the industry to deal with issues not directly related to healthcare. 

In general, experts believe that Telehealth Act is an important step in the right direction in the development of modern healthcare system in the country, however, it is only the very first step.