The healthcare industry constantly needs new sophisticated global digital solutions. These days, an ageing society demands more care than ever before, current problems require more advanced medical treatments, new electronic devices in the hands of users, and larger amounts of data to work with. The COVID-19 outbreak has also changed our habits and the way we access specialists.
In addition, many experts have noted the lack of interoperability between the systems and institutions and saw it as a major problem that needs to be addressed.
The global market for digital solutions is immense. In its pre-Covid report, Global Market Insights claims that the digital healthcare market could reach a value of nearly £450 billion by 2026. In the UK, the NHS could spend approximately £13 billion on investment in healthcare research and development by 2028, according to the NHS Long-Term Plan. Now, however, it is already clear that these figures will be even higher.
It’s no surprise that big tech companies are looking to improve their overall presence in health and well-being globally. Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google) and Apple have invested enormous amounts of money and used many resources to provide consumers, patients and healthcare organisations with better and more integrated digital solutions. In terms of the localisation industry, it is inevitable that this increase in spend and innovation will require ever more agile and dynamic localisation solutions to keep pace with the change.
Let’s take a closer look at what the big 4 tech companies have planned for this giant sector.
According to Google, about 7% of all web searches are related to health. Therefore, it is only logical that the company has decided to take a closer look at this domain.
Google connects the healthcare system to the cloud. Currently, the Cloud Healthcare API is Google’s largest solution for the healthcare sector and has been available since April 2020. The service enables data exchange between healthcare applications and digital solutions based on Google Cloud. The promoted API is based on the FHIR protocol, which allows organisations to import and store data from multiple sources using an open standard method. It supports multiple health data standards such as HL7® FHIR®, HL7® v2 and DICOM®.
The main features of the solution are:
- Store, manage and extract actionable data information in FHIR format.
- Support for HL7v2 messages.
- Support for DICOM (medical imaging information) data.
- The anonymisation of health data so that it can be used by analytics tools and AI applications.
- Options for managing privacy and consent policies.
- Integration with rich analytics and machine learning tools on Google Cloud Platform, i.e., Dataflow, BigQuery, AI Platform and Looker.
Google Workspace for Healthcare is another relevant product of Google services. It is a set of well-known Google tools that can be used in healthcare organisations worldwide. Patient video appointments can take place in Google Meet and information can be stored in Google Docs, Sheets or Google Drive.
It also offers features of a smart office for remote working collaboration. With G Suite and Google Meet, healthcare and life science organisations can digitally connect with employees and colleagues to drive their projects forward while managing the new reality of remote work. In addition, Chrome Enterprise allows healthcare providers like the Hackensack Meridian Health network to access the files and information they need on the go.
Google Health (Google’s EHR) is an ambitious project that is still in the pilot phase. Google wants to create an AI-powered EHR data aggregation tool for clinics. They aim to create a single point where doctors can view their patients’ data – a place for vital and laboratory scores, medications, notes and reports. The biggest advantage of the solution would of course be the integrated search function with functions such as autocomplete and autocorrect. There is no official release date for this solution yet.
Microsoft officially released Cloud for Healthcare on 30 October 2020, the first industry-specific cloud to be provided by Microsoft. This solution integrates all Microsoft products such as Microsoft Azure (cloud platform), Microsoft 365 suite (mainly Office tools), Dynamics (ERP + CRM) and Azure IoT into one health data model.
The solution focuses on three aspects:
Improve patient experience by providing self-service portals for patients and creating areas and applications that allow patients to interact directly with healthcare professionals, e.g. via video conferencing.
Create an easily accessible and holistic view of the patient’s health status, called a 360-degree patient view. The entire solution is based on a data model designed specifically for healthcare. The data should be available to patients and healthcare professionals. This can be achieved by collecting and sharing data from different data points using the FHIR sector standard, accessing EHR, or connecting external devices to IoT. As a digital transformation, all of this should make it possible to gain a holistic insight into the health of patients.
The Azure API for FHIR, offered as a component of Azure PaaS, is an essential part of this solution. FHIR is becoming the industry standard for the exchange and management of health information. The API itself has been available since 2019. Microsoft continues to be involved in the Open Source Space Software (OSS). You publish and maintain the OSS version of this PaaS offering as an FHIR server available on GitHub.
The API can help any organisation handle protected health information and import, share, and store data to the Azure cloud. It enables the collection of data from multiple sources (e.g., EHR, IoT devices, research labs) in a single consistent format that makes the data usable for actionable analytics and machine learning purposes.
Many organisations use MS Teams, which is well suited for virtual consultations within organisations (e.g., doctor-to-doctor communication) and outside (e.g., with external medical experts). A good example of the introduction of this tool is the UK National Health Service (NHS) and NHS Digital, where it is estimated that 65 million messages have been sent to both organisations since they deployed MS Teams in March this year.
MS Teams combined with an additional application called the Bookings app, provide additional options for healthcare. The Bookings app offers the functionality of virtual visits, which is an excellent alternative to meeting patients in person. In addition, invitations are sent directly from the organisation instead of from a single doctor’s email address, preventing the addresses of medical staff from being made available to the public. The app provides a simple custom link to the video visit that can be opened in a web browser on a PC or smartphone without the need to provide credentials. The planner can view the doctor’s calendar, and the invitation can be based on a simple template provided by the organisation.
Healthcare-Bot is an Azure-hosted solution from Microsoft that can be very helpful for patients. It can “examine” them with a symptom examiner, guide them to get appropriate help, provide relevant information, look for nearby doctors, and schedule the visit in an available window of time.
Currently, Microsoft is also previewing its new IoT Connector for FHIR component. With the new API, organisations can securely retrieve protected health data from a range of patient devices when needed. The Internet of Medical Things should find its place in the remote monitoring programs for patients, with patients staying at home.
Microsoft supports HIPAA and GDPR, ISO 27001 compliance and is HITRUST certified in its solutions.
AWS data centres and cloud services already serve as infrastructure for many industries, including healthcare. Amazon claims that all relevant services are HIPAA compliant, and all AWS services are GDPR compliant.
Amazon doesn’t have a FHIR-specific offer yet. However, AWS has launched an open-source project called FHIR Works on AWS. This open-source toolkit can be used by software teams to incorporate FHIR solutions and thus improve their interoperability in healthcare. It can be used to create software connectors between the legacy interfaces of Healthcare Organisations (HCOs) and the current FHIR standard. Finally, it provides guidance on how to customise the FHIR Works on an AWS standard API to meet your unique needs with specific FHIR implementation guides. Visit this page to learn more.
Amazon also offers Amazon Connect to healthcare organisations. Essentially, this solution is an enterprise contact centre. It provides multiple communication channels that can help HCOs manage their communication with patients. This allows them to answer the large volume of incoming calls or use chatbots to support their employees.
To support the fight against COVID-19, Amazon has become a member of the COVID-19 HPC consortium. Research institutions working on diagnostics and developing treatments or vaccines against the pandemic can apply for promotional credits and facilitate access to Amazon’s cloud resources such as HPC and storage.
Amazon also provides access to a COVID-19 record generated by Johns Hopkins University. The data can be found in the AWD data exchange.
Amazon Care is another interesting initiative worth pursuing. Amazon, in collaboration with its healthcare partner, Oasis Medical Group, has launched a digital solution aimed exclusively at its employees. The features of the solution focus on telemedicine and access to nurses or doctors via chat and video calls. The solution contains the medical history, i.e., diagnosis, notes, and treatment plan. It also includes payment options. Many analysts believe this solution is a pilot project, and Amazon will soon be offering a similar product to a wider audience.
Amazon has also released a new wearable device, a fitness and health band called Alexa Halo, which was released in early 2020.
It’s no surprise that Apple is putting its devices at the centre of its healthcare solutions. With over 1 billion active accounts, the company has decided to give its users direct access to their entire health status through their smartphones. This can be a great opportunity for healthcare organisations to stay in touch with their patients. However, it can also put pressure on institutions to meet public expectations regarding access to practical IT solutions.
The Health app serves as an access point for customers, and any iPhone user can download it. The Application may collect and aggregate data from smartphones, wearables and all types of third-party devices and apps to store and display health data. This data may include running distance, diet, sleep analysis, heart rate variability and weight, among others.
One of the main features of the application is called Health Records. Health Records is Apple’s personal health records system. The feature has been available in the U.S. for two years and can also be used in the UK and Canada since 7 October 2020. The Health Records app allows users to safely view and store their medical data on their iPhones. In the UK, Oxford University Hospitals and Milton Keynes University Hospital are the first institutions to support the solutions.
The IT market in the healthcare sector is overloaded with a variety of digital solutions offered by multiple providers. With the sheer extent of healthcare innovations and solutions emerging every day, it is crucial that localisation solutions and technologies are integrated in order to ensure global healthcare professionals can provide the best care using the best and latest tools available. ALM has been working with clients within the health and IT sector for over 20 years and has built robust, flexible workflows across the majority of world languages to respond to the changing needs of global healthcare organisations. Over this time, ALM has shown that its translation teams can efficiently and effectively pivot in alignment with your healthcare translation needs, no matter the platform or the market.
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