With technology advancing exponentially and the demand for better healthcare outcomes at reduced costs looming large, the healthcare sector is under immense pressure. According to a report, 81% of patients are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience. The need to adopt technology and embrace the world of connected health to meet the needs of patients seems obvious, but the healthcare sector continues to lag behind due to the presence of legacy healthcare systems. Not only do these systems hamper growth, but they also pose a hindrance in improving care outcomes in a world where the convergence of health technology, digitalization, and mobile devices can revolutionize care.

The Rise of Connected Health aka Smart Health

With rising costs and heightened budget pressures, aging populations, increase in chronic disease rates and growing expectations for more affordable and better quality care, there is an impending need for a healthcare transformation – a transition to systems that are integrated across the healthcare environment and offer a sustainable healthcare model. That’s why nations around the globe are taking significant steps to embark on the connected health journey to improve the access and sharing of health information and facilitate the subsequent analysis of health data across systems. According to a report, life sciences and IoT applications in healthcare are expected to grow to $1.335 trillion by 2020. The goals are clear — better quality of treatment, more accessible care and cost-effective healthcare.

The Problem with Legacy Healthcare Systems

The changing face of the healthcare environment and the requirement of quick access to critical health information by medical practitioners and patients place demands on the sector which legacy applications find it increasingly difficult to satisfy. Legacy healthcare systems that are not sufficiently flexible to meet changing business needs pose as a major hindrance in healthcare organizations’ journey towards connected health.

Let’s look at five problems with legacy healthcare systems:

  1. Not prepared for change: As the healthcare sector looms under the pressures of improving care outcomes, enhancing disease management, and substantially reducing healthcare costs, there is a need to adopt systems that can respond to change. Legacy systems were built to deal with long periods of static, unchanging needs. But that’s not how the world works anymore. How do you improve your care outcomes if you’re stuck with a legacy system and are restricted from using an AI-enabled monitoring device, or a big-data enabled system?
  2. The issue of security: With security becoming a requisite in the healthcare sector, today’s IT systems like EHRs are built with the necessary security features. The time during which legacy systems were built did not cater to these security challenges. As the legacy systems are quite inflexible, it may be difficult to fix the vulnerabilities. According to a study, the average cost of a healthcare data breach is $380 per record, which is 2.5 times the global average across industries!
  3. Lack of real-time information: In order to improve diagnosis and quicken treatments, access to real-time information has become a grave necessity in the healthcare sector. But legacy systems often lack the required reporting capabilities and adequate access to information. This lack of information restricts the ability to respond to illness and treat it in the most effective and timely manner.
  4. High Support and Maintenance Costs: Legacy healthcare systems are often costly to both support and maintain on a day-to-day basis. Since these systems often require specific IT skills, mostly in older or obsolete programming languages which are no longer used, finding resources to maintain them becomes increasingly difficult. In addition, support and updates for these systems (if at all available) are far more expensive and take a lot more work for developers to offer continued maintenance and updates.
  5. High complexity and lack of ease of use: The level of complexity of legacy healthcare systems makes it difficult for today’s tech-savvy doctors or nurses to fully understand them, leading to the system being either under-used or used incorrectly. Legacy healthcare systems tend to be very proprietary, with an unappealing user interface, which makes them difficult to understand in contrast to newer systems that are far more flexible and easier to use and adapt to.

Time to Move Away from Legacy Healthcare Systems

Legacy healthcare systems made sense back in the days when they were first built. But with advances in technology, changes in the regulatory environment, and the growing demands of technology-aware patients, it’s time to re-consider the healthcare infrastructure.

According to an Accenture study, hospitals that offer superior patient experience generate 50% higher financial performance. Start by asking yourself a few questions: Are your legacy systems able to meet the growing demands of the sector? Are you able to cost-effectively maintain these systems? Is there sufficient support still available for these systems? Is it possible to integrate your legacy healthcare systems with modern systems like smart wearables and AI-enabled devices? If the answer to any of these questions is a no, its time to move away from your legacy healthcare systems and time to move onto Connected Health.