Shortage. A word that, unfortunately, is heard all too often in the healthcare sector. However, this can be easily changed. Patient-centric technologies could be key allies in resolving, or at least alleviating this situation.

Let’s concentrate on the staff. According to Statista, in 2021, 83 percent of responding hospital and health system executives predicted nursing staff shortages. Furthermore, 30 percent of respondents expected to face an insufficient number of physicians. A shortfall of leadership roles, on the other hand, was far less envisioned by the responding healthcare executives. WHO estimates a projected shortfall of 10 million health workers by 2030, mostly in low- and lower-middle income countries.

Behind the cold numbers, there lies a deep concern: the shortfall of healthcare staff translates into more difficulties for patients to receive timely care (and into worse diagnostic and treatment outcomes) and greater inefficiencies for healthcare providers.

What is “patient-centric”?

Patient-centric technologies are those that offer a simple, effective and intuitive alternative with the potential to “reduce” the burden on healthcare providers considerably.

The most popular way for the sector so far is the apps, i.e., the possibility of resolving simple issues by phone, such as procedures, authorizations for medical studies or appointments, or more complex issues, such as specific queries, access to one’s own medical history or consulting a test.

At the center of this strategy is the user experience (UX). This will allow people to feel comfortable, adopt all the functionalities provided, be stimulated and interested in using the application and, as a consequence of all of the above, improve their overall health outlook.

Wearables capable of monitoring the health status of patients are a very effective alternative to reduce unnecessary visits to hospitals and health centers, on the one hand; and on the other, they help prevent critical incidents, which generate not only an enormous risk for the person suffering from them, but also a strain on the health system that must contain them.

A smarter future

Generative artificial intelligence (Gen AI) has the potential to revolutionize the market. Chatbots equipped with this technology can interact with people through natural language to immediately resolve a huge number of transactions.

Among the aspects that generative AI can cover are supporting patients before, during, and after the visit to a medical facility to give them more information, enhance certainty and reduce their stress levels.

Another important area is educating patients on prevention tasks, in order to reduce the number of face-to-face visits, hospitalizations, and higher-cost care. Then, AI can play a fundamental role in providing treatment support, analyzing the progress, controlling the intake of medications, and many other measures to reduce readmissions or help improve the quality of life of chronic patients.

Between digital humans and super apps

Again, with a focus on UX, the concept of “digital humans” is at the forefront: computer-generated entities capable of facial expressions, gestures, or even empathetic responses.

Another technological trend that could have a future impact on the healthcare segment is super apps. They have been identified by Gartner as one of the most important technological advances of 2023. They combine in a single app all the functionalities to cater to all healthcare needs, even when different healthcare providers or professionals are involved (a health insurance company, a family doctor, a pharmacy, a healthcare center, etc.).

The paradox is that the more healthcare insurance companies invest in patient-centric technologies, the less scarce their resources and the healthier their operations will be.