Today, digital technology called digital transformation (hereafter, DX) is promoting change in all fields. Under such circumstances, what kind of DX can we expect in the medical field? The use of digital data is already expanding in the field of preventive medicine overseas. For example, the use of personal behavior and daily activity data in medical institutions, and the prediction of the onset of diseases based on digital data analysis.
Japan boasts world-class longevity, but healthy life expectancy is shorter than the average life expectancy. This time, let’s explore the issues facing the medical field and the possibilities of solutions with DX.
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What are the issues facing the medical field?
According to the census by the Statistics Bureau of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan’s total population peaked at 128.08 million in 2008 and has been on a downward trend since then. This trend is expected to continue over the long term, and according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research’s “Population Projection for Japan (2017 estimate)”, the total population of Japan in 2015 was 100 million. In 2053, the population was 27.09 million, but it is expected to decrease to 99.24 million in 2053 and 88.08 million in 2065. On the other hand, the aging rate is on the rise and is estimated to reach approximately 41.2% by 2065.
Due to these demographic changes, the number of elderly people requiring long-term care and dementia will increase, and the number of people requiring medical care and long-term care will continue to grow. On the other hand, the working population of the younger generation is expected to decline, and in the medical industry, the balance between supply and demand will be disrupted, making the labor shortage even more serious. expected. Efficiency and cost reduction, as well as “work style reform,” are urgent needs in the medical field.
In the future, if medical expenses continue to increase due to the aging population, there is concern that the national finances will be squeezed and the burden on the public will increase due to factors such as increases in insurance premiums. Controlling medical expenses and maintaining the social insurance system, including health insurance, are important issues not only for the medical industry but also for Japanese society as a whole.
In the past, in Japan, it was common for elderly people to live with their families and take care of them. In an aging society, the number of elderly single-person households and couple-only households tends to increase. In the future, medical institutions and healthcare workers will work together with medical professionals and administrative agencies, who have different positions, so that the elderly can receive continuous and appropriate medical care in the community wherever they are, such as at home or in medical and nursing care facilities. It is necessary to deepen cooperation and build a close regional network.
DX in the medical field
DX is the key to solving these issues in the medical field. How will DX change medical care in Japan, which is facing a super-aging society? Here, let’s take a closer look at the effects that DX is expected to bring to the medical field, divided into the following four items.
(1) Improve efficiency by improving the ICT environment
The development and spread of ICT (information and communication technology) have already begun to bring about various changes in the medical field. An easy-to-understand example is online medical treatment. By enabling online medical consultations from remote locations, it will be easier for patients in areas where no specialists and elderly people are living alone to receive medical care. In addition to reducing the burden of hospital visits for patients, it is also expected to reduce the burden on doctors and improve the efficiency of on-site operations.
New medical services that make full use of ICT technology are also appearing one after another. . For example, the “Telepathology Platform Service” handled by Softbank is one of them. This service is a technology developed to address the problem of a shortage of pathologists. By using the dedicated communication device ” iCOMBOX ” for teleradiological image diagnosis, the images and diagnostic information can be shared with multiple medical institutions on the cloud. It can be shared between institutions.
A medical facility can receive consultation from a remote pathologist with specialized knowledge simply by installing “iCOMBOX” in the facility. Pathologists also benefit from the reduced burden of business trips and clerical work associated with examinations and consultations.
Ina City, Nagano Prefecture, MONET Technologies Co., Ltd., and Philips Japan Co., Ltd. have also collaborated to develop “Healthcare Mobility,” a vehicle equipped with medical equipment that provides medical care. In December 2019, a test operation was started within the mobile clinic demonstration project promoted by Ina City.
Healthcare mobility is a system in which a nurse visits a patient’s home in a vehicle, and a doctor can remotely examine the patient through an online video call in the vehicle. After that, the nurses follow the doctor’s instructions and perform examinations and treatments using medical equipment installed in the vehicle, such as electrocardiogram monitors, blood glucose meters, and blood pressure meters.
Healthcare mobility, which can provide appropriate medical care to patients without a doctor on site, has the potential to solve the shortage of doctors and regional disparities in medical care.
(2) Construction of information network
One of the goals of DX in the medical field is to build an information network that enables smooth cooperation between medical facilities, nursing care facilities, and government agencies.
By using this platform, regional medical facilities such as hospitals, clinical laboratories, and pharmacies will be able to share patient medical information bi-directionally and will be able to link different medical information systems at each medical institution and facility. increase. If such regional medical information networking progresses, medical care, nursing care, and health management services tailored to each individual should be provided more than ever before. Furthermore, it is expected to reduce the burden on both patients and medical staff, improve the quality of medical care, shorten medical care time, and reduce duplicate examinations, thereby optimizing the ever-increasing medical costs.
(3) Strengthen BCP (Business Continuity Plan) in the event of a disaster
“BCP (Business Continuity Plan)” is the preparation of countermeasures to minimize the impact and continue the core business in the event of an emergency such as a natural disaster or terrorism. In recent years, large-scale disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons have occurred frequently in various parts of Japan, and medical facilities in particular are required to continue medical examinations and treatment even in the event of a disaster, so it is essential to review and strengthen their BCP.
By utilizing the aforementioned information platform, cloud services, data preservation services, etc., it is possible to safely manage important medical data such as electronic medical records while backing them up. Even if the system in the facility is damaged in the event of a disaster, medical care can be continued by referring to the backup data.
If you belong to the same company, you may be using the same application, but when you think about customers and cooperating companies who come and go to the site, you should use a web conferencing system that requires an application. On the other hand, with ‘VISUAL TALK’, you can start a call by tapping the URL in the SMS sent to your smartphone, so there is no need to install an application or enter an ID.” (Noshiro)
(4) Development of preventive medicine through data utilization
In an aging society, it is important to extend healthy life expectancy to curb medical expenses. To that end, it is necessary to focus on preventive medicine to prevent bedridden conditions and lifestyle-related diseases.
In recent years, even in Japan, by combining cutting-edge digital technologies such as IoT, AI, and 5G, we are trying to collect a huge amount of data on people’s behavior, lifestyle habits, and health conditions, and use it for health promotion in various ways. Efforts are underway.
One example is the research on AI assistants jointly promoted by Keio University Tonomachi Frontier Research and Education Collaboration Square and Softbank. Underlying this research is the idea that as people’s lifestyles become more and more diverse in the future, there will be an increasing need to improve “well-being,” which means a state of being physically, mentally, and socially healthy.
Both parties signed a comprehensive partnership agreement in December 2019 and announced that they will research to develop AI assistants that support healthy lifestyles and behaviors, aiming for a society that can realize well-being. I’m here.
Summary: The possibility of overcoming labor shortages, remote medical care, etc. by utilizing and sharing information has become apparent
In the medical field, if the use of digital technologies such as ICT, cloud, AI, and IoT advances, there is no doubt that on-site work will be significantly more efficient. As a result, it is possible to reduce costs and personnel expenses and improve the working environment. As DX progresses at each medical institution, it will bring us closer to realizing regional medical cooperation and an information network between different occupations.
However, just like in other fields, DX is progressing significantly in the medical field, as existing systems become obsolete and complicated, resistance from on-site workers due to busyness, lack of knowledge, and security concerns. The current situation is that it is not possible.