When Covid-19 first hit Texas, the Parkland Health & Hospital System’s call center was overwhelmed. Patients were waiting 45 minutes to get access to information about Covid-19 testing.

Parkland worked with enterprise software company SAP to get access to real-time data and make informed decisions. In just four weeks, the team created an inventory tracker for critical supplies, such as ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE). Staff also created a Covid-19 symptom checker and a command center dashboard that tracks the hospital’s operations.

Data will remain crucial in delivering quality healthcare beyond Covid-19. Thiam Hwa Lim, Healthcare Director and Industry lead for SAP Southeast Asia, explores three ways data can power the future of healthcare.

Enable predictive healthcare

Intelligent healthcare is powered by data, says Thiam. Healthcare information consists of a massive set of data from clinical documents, medical images, lab reports, genomic data and more. If healthcare providers can analyse this data, predictive patient care can be unlocked, he adds.

For example, clinicians can co-relate data from wearables with health screening results. Hospitals can then schedule an appointment if data shows the patient’s cholesterol levels remain high with regular exercise. This way, clinicians can address health issues early and prevent them from deteriorating further.

AI is also helping to predict Covid-19 diagnosis at emergency departments in two UK hospitals, says Thiam. The model had a 92.3 per cent accuracy and was developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.

SAP’s Business Technology Platform helps healthcare providers cleanse, validate and integrate huge volumes of data from multiple sources. Providers can then create dashboards to visualise data and make decisions quickly, he adds.

Track Covid-19 supplies

It is often a challenge for healthcare providers to make sense of their existing IT landscape, Thiam says. Their landscape usually has multiple systems and applications, and data is presented in non-intuitive dashboards.

Clinicians lack the visibility to make sense of data, hampering decision making, he adds. This was an issue during Covid-19 as some hospitals did not have visibility over the availability of resources like beds or PPE.

SAP has collaborated with German healthcare provider Paul Hartmann AG to pilot a dashboard that predicts medical demand and supply around the world, says Thiam. Regional data on the number of hospital beds is incorporated into a machine learning model, which then predicts future demand for medical supplies.

Reduce manual processes

AI and automation will help reduce human errors and manual work required, says Thiam. Robotic Process Automation, for instance, can ensure data is accurate and made available quickly.

Zuellig Pharma, one of Asia’s largest healthcare providers, has used RPA to receive and process orders, taking on the equivalent of 20 employees’ workload. This has allowed the firm to keep up with orders and continue delivering supplies during the pandemic.

AI can reduce data processing times and support clinicians to make decisions quickly. The machine learning models can learn from patients’ past medical history and allow diagnoses to be made more quickly.

Healthcare startup Droice Labs uses AI to process patient data in multiple languages. That has helped one hospital reduce diagnosis time by 20 per cent, Forbes reported.

Covid-19 has highlighted the need for accurate, real-time data. With the help of the right tools, healthcare providers can confidently prepare for the challenges ahead.