The Technology Prescription for Future-Proof Healthcare

Catriona Murphy
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On: 14 Sep 2017
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healthcare technology

While technology continues to transform our everyday lives, medical advances are transforming patient care. The two must be fully integrated for future-proof healthcare.

In recent years, mobile connectivity has enabled all sorts of applications of technology in the treatment and care of patients, however data management and information sharing are areas that may need more focus and are also key aspects of treatment, which can help to provide better patient outcomes.

MRIs, CAT scans, keyhole surgery and robot-assisted surgery are all great examples of the advancements that have been made in healthcare, but some patient charts remain on paper with notes stored in filing cabinets in various specialised departments. Patients will not fully benefit from advances in medical treatment and surgery, if the administrative system that supports their delivery is still reliant on paper, fax and post.

Paperwork Shouldn’t Be on Paper

Patient data is gathered at all touchpoints in the health sector – GPs, hospitals, pharmacies, specialised clinics. Each piece of data tells part of the story of a patient’s illness, diagnosis, treatment and results. The more data the various healthcare professionals can access, the better informed and safer their decisions will be, and the quicker they can take effective action. Unfortunately that data is currently in silos; unshared and inaccessible among those caring for the patient.

Progress has already been made in Ireland to begin to meet this challenge.

An email service developed specifically for GPs, but also used by pharmacies and other healthcare providers, has been operating in Ireland since 2014. Developed by the Irish College of General Practitioners, the HSE and Three, the Healthmail secure email service is for sharing clinical patient information, to benefit the care of the patient. Healthmail was recently shortlisted for an award in the upcoming GP Buddy Awards, in the category of ‘Best GP and Hospital Collaboration’.

Further progress has been made in Ireland with the introduction of GP Online. It is a subsequent development by the National Association of GPs and Three. This secure video consultation service allows patients to consult with their GP via their smartphone, making GP consultations more efficient, flexible and accessible.

Planning for Future Needs

Planning technology development and digitalisation for healthcare requires joined-up, long-term strategic thinking. There needs to be consistency in the technologies used across healthcare providers in order for the full potential of technology to be realised and to make meeting future needs easier. As newer technologies such as health-monitoring wearable devices become more prevalent, the right technology infrastructure will need to be in place to enable patients to benefit. Wearable devices connected to a secure cloud will trigger alerts to the wearer or carer to allow for more timely medical intervention. Medical consultations can take place remotely via video call. These advancements would reduce the need for appointments, reduce the strain on resources and transform healthcare to be more proactive and preventative.