Kelly Feist is managing director at Ascom Americas.
While the Fourth Industrial Revolution got its name in 2016, it had its start much earlier, and we will continue to see its impacts over many decades to come. This most recent one driven by technology has the potential to reduce inequalities, increase security and strengthen communities at a level unlike previous industrial revolutions—if we get it right.
This time of digital disruption touches all industries. I see its game-changing impacts and the speed of those impacts in healthcare, particularly over the past five years. Now that some of the big advancements in imaging and electronic medical records are universal, we need to focus on using technology to benefit the care providers and the patient through improving workflows, collaboration and communications. Only a small percentage of hospitals in the U.S. have implemented these kinds of solutions in a holistic way, so there is an opportunity for technology to enable workflow improvements that really matter to the providers. I’m excited about the opportunity to make a big impact on customers’ digitization journeys and design the way they provide care.
It’s important to think about designing solutions as part of a bigger healthcare model and ecosystem because that’s what the Fourth Industrial Revolution has created—new models of delivering service. Underlying technologies can drive new models that lead to paradigm shifts within and across industries—whether it’s GPS combined with mobile smartphones to create ride-sharing and the bigger token economy or predictive analytics engines and mobile smartphones to deliver proactive care at the point of care, wherever that may be.
When I look at the technologies associated with this Fourth Industrial Revolution, I see so much potential application in meeting healthcare’s Quadruple Aim with predictive analytics, AI, the Internet of Things (IoT) and even 3-D printing. These fundamental technologies will help us speed up and improve the quality of care as well as change the overall model to one that supports a wellness-first shift. Already, AI is helping spot patterns from data, interpret the results and make smart recommendations to help clinicians. Today, wearable IoT plays a role in monitoring patients’ conditions outside the hospital in an often home-based, patient-preferred environment, allowing continual oversight at lower costs. I predict that 3-D printing will eventually become a popular choice for certain replacement parts for medical devices after clearing the regulatory considerations that must be addressed for device integrity.
Where are we in this revolution? According to history, we experience massive disruption roughly every 100 years, so we are decades into this one already. And it’s not an even distribution. Sometimes, we see and feel incremental changes, while other times, we see and feel large-scale changes. Typically, healthcare lags behind other industries, but we experienced an upheaval with Covid-19. Constraints force innovation, and thanks to the technology groundwork already in place in this Fourth Industrial Revolution, the healthcare industry is responding in a way that accelerates our collective digital healthcare journey.
The need for this agility will continue as we live with and manage the unpredictability of Covid-19 and its variants. Hospital systems will continue to have to flex their staffing and care models due to surges and then equalize as they respond to plummeting levels of hospitalizations without federal CARES aid. Challenges like these can best be met and overcome when technology plays a strong part in an organization’s care model design.