Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

How data analytics can shape the healthcare sector

By Gabriella Steyn Time of article published Feb 15, 2019

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CAPE TOWN – Data specialist company, PBT believes that data analytics can shape the healthcare industry, this comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa, during the 2019 State of the Nation Address (SONA) said that the health sector of South Africa is seen to be in ‘crisis state’.

Yolanda Smit, Regional Director (Gauteng) from PBT Group said in an interview response to Business Report: "The South African healthcare sector is rapidly moving towards an environment where platforms are becoming less proprietary and more integrated, as technology evolves. PBT Group provides specialised services, partnering with players in this sector to develop platforms that enable the management and analysis of data within the healthcare sector.

"Data and Analytics focused solutions, as an example, can be used to integrate information from many databases enabling healthcare providers to generate insights on demand that empowers them to ultimately provide improved patient care."

Smit states that one typical business problem in the administration of health-care provision lies in optimising nursing-staff rosters.

"To ensure sufficient coverage of nurse to patient ratio through forecasting and prediction of bed occupancy demand and through patient interaction, the value of Data and Analytics solutions lies in the ability to access patient personal information as quickly as possible, but also to collect diagnostic inputs, process and interpret it as fast as possible and generate a suitable and effective personalised care-plan," said Smit. 

According to Smit, data related solutions and analytics are fundamental to modern healthcare facilities of the future, as the capabilities provided inevitably result in a more efficient, reliable, and effective treatment environments and of course, giving the right people access to the right information at the right time, aids patient care.

Smit believes that one of the biggest challenges with the way that service providers are currently handling the information of customers are linked to the handling of data is the traditional manner in which data within the healthcare sector is being captured. 

"Traditional methods of capturing patient data simply cannot survive today. Just consider the time it takes for patients to complete forms, administrative staff to accurately capture the information, and the data to filter through the system. Even worse, if someone goes to a different hospital group, the process needs to start from the beginning," said Smit. 

Smit told Business Report that the importance of integrated data systems mean that healthcare institutions will be able to access patient data quicker and more efficiently. 

"Currently, patients are required to open files in every healthcare facility they attend on their first visit, where they need to share their medical history and other personal information regardless of their medical state. Should there be a centralised and integrated system in place, imagine the queues that could be cut and the turnaround time from arrival through diagnosis to treatment that could be significantly shortened. The efficiency that would be seen could lead to a great deal of customer satisfaction, shorter consultancy periods, less waiting time and, faster treatment response leading to lower mortality rates" said Smit. 

 "IBM’s super-computer, Watson[1], has already shown some success in how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can assist in the diagnosis of cancer, but Artificial Intelligence depends on access to information," said Smit. 

In terms of job creation, Smit states one of the biggest misconceptions that exists is that, with the introduction of more efficient systems through technology, there will be less jobs for people. 

"While technology evolutions like AI and other technologies will see systems become more automated and improved, Human Intelligence (HI) still plays a significant role in driving the success of these technologies. The demand for skills in the health sector should incorporate the need for information workers, people with the IT capabilities to develop these Data and Analytics platforms within healthcare provider organisations, but also across it. However, capital investment in creating these jobs are constrained and furthermore, the skills to fill these jobs, once created, are scarce," said Smit.


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