The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed healthcare, in particular, it has been instrumental in improving the delivery of care. In this article, originally published on Government Technology Insider, experts from several government agencies focused on healthcare, including the Defense Health Agency, joined forces with industry leaders to discuss how technology like AI and the pandemic have reshaped the delivery of care.
Over the past year, it has become imperative for not just the healthcare industry to invest in technology advancements, but government agencies too. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important it is for agencies to improve and develop health information technology (IT) services to support healthcare providers with the delivery of care during a public health crisis. This includes not only telemedicine capabilities, but also data sharing, connectivity, and artificial intelligence (AI).
Recently, Lisa Lewis, Chief Operating Officer, Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT; Pat Flanders, Chief Information Officer, Defense Health Agency; Captain Hassan Tetteh, Warfighter Health Mission Chief, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, Department of Defense; Bill Tinston, Director, Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization; Thomas Long, Director, Federal Healthcare, Verizon; Nick Psaki, Principal Technology Strategist, Pure Storage; and Nicholas Speece, Chief Federal Technologist, Snowflake, met to discuss the critical issues facing the healthcare industries today and what agencies are doing to address these concerns.
While the shift to telework tested several agencies’ networks, the stakes of the rapid shift to being remote were much higher for healthcare providers, said Defense Health Agency’s Flanders. Providers had to adapt and perform video conferencing visits to patients at a time when health information was critical. Verizon’s Long commented how “technology has opened up many possibilities to improve care as well as creating limitless potential use cases in the future as technology manufacturers continue to innovate new technologies.”
With restrictions in place, it significantly impacted patients over the past year when it came to COVID-19 testing. So, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) got to work on data sharing to make faster test results happen. Lewis, COO at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, stressed the importance of maintaining safe and secure control over information flows, especially when it comes to medical data. Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization’s Tinston commented that data sharing allows for agencies to “look at the same data, understand the data, and glean different insights and not argue about what the right data is because we have a source of truth.”
For IT innovation in healthcare at the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), Captain Tetteh, Warfighter Health Mission Chief at JAIC, said that the agency is “leading AI adoption at scale” by implementing “an augmented reality (AR) microscope, which has an interface that has a computer vision module in it and has been trained on algorithms to help detect cancer” at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and military treatment facilities. AI innovation is helping improve diagnosis and delivery of care in the healthcare industry.
Other IT advancements include Augmented Reality (AR) solutions at the VA that allow “physicians to virtually look inside a patient’s body to identify where cancer may be and if it needs to be removed,” said Verizon’s Long. This will help physicians with pre-surgical preparation by orienting themselves with the patient’s anatomy. Additionally, AR technology is being used by medical students to get a near-real time view of the operating room. These immersive training methods are better preparing physicians for the future.
Technology is rapidly changing the face of healthcare from how patients and doctors interact to the speed at which diagnosis can be made. The pandemic has shown just how valuable technology is for researchers, providers, and patients. From telemedicine to AI integration, agencies are on the cusp of a rapid advancement in healthcare.
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