Joe Tibbetts is the CEO Boilerhouse Media Group and managing editor Healthcare Innovation Monitor. Joe has advised many government, NHS and commercial healthsector organisations on digital communications@joe_tibbetts
There are technology barriers to delivering digital healthcare says Scott Andrew but the real challenge is managing collaborations and changing people’s behaviours
We have talked about and around digital healthcare for so long now that there is a real danger that we become blasé and forget the scale of the prize, the scale of the opportunity, and the scale of the challenge embodied in those two short words.
It may, in fact, be helpful to talk about connected healthcare rather than digital healthcare. After all the word digital describes the delivery technology not what is delivered. Connected healthcare is what digital technology can deliver.
Furthermore a significant number among the clinical and non-clinical carer populations and the cared-for patient population are “turned off” by the thought of technology and begin to glaze over as soon as they hear the dreaded “D“ word
Connected healthcare is simpler to understand and the benefits clearer.
The prize for achieving connected healthcare is “better, more affordable, more accessible patient care” says Scott Andrew, head of health at Samsung Electronics. In short healthier, happier patients achieved at a lower cost-to–treat via care that is accessible from anywhere at any time.
Connected healthcare must connect across organisations, across specialisms and departments within an organization, across administrative and geographical boundaries, and across time as the patient record is updated on mobile devices from any location, in real time, increment by increment.
“And” adds Scott Andrew, “as if that is not enough, connected healthcare also brings the patient into the circle that includes clinical and non-clinical professionals, family and other carers. Enabling the patient to work with the connected group in managing and improving his or her own health and life prospects”.
Take a moment to read those last two paragraphs again. The word ‘awesome’, much abused by a generation of teenagers, is wholly appropriate in this case.
The impetus for developing connected healthcare is provided by a single driver. Some parts of the healthcare offering are now so expensive and yet so desirable (think transplant, new drug, and gene therapies) that we need to ensure that as much of the whole healthcare piece is delivered at the lowest possible cost in order to ensure we can find the resource to do the other, inescapably expensive stuff.
This sounds like a challenge and it is but for the patient it is in fact a heaven sent opportunity.
“For generations” says Scott Andrew, “healthcare was something that was done to us. Now digital technology (stay awake at the back please) is giving many of us the levers to manage our own health. Now connected healthcare can be something done by us.
Perhaps not surprisingly the real challenge of developing connected healthcare is not actually a technology challenge. There are technology barriers, like common standards, data security, interoperability, mobility in a world of less than perfect broadband coverage and all these must be addressed but the real challenge is people.
Developing and delivering connected healthcare systems requires an unprecedented array of different people and organisations to work together. Device manufacturers, like Samsung, must work with platform providers, application developers, clinical and non-clinical staff, different administrative regimes and differing standards authorities.
“We have some great partners” says Andrew “collaborative relationships with wonderful people “ pinpointing their work with the post devolution healthcare regime in Greater Manchester.
Nevertheless a heavy but inescapable irony hangs over the whole enterprise. The changes that Samsung and their partners are recommending are exactly the changes they must themselves adopt to deliver on the promise
“Clearly delivering connected healthcare requires certain changes in behaviours by both clinical and non clinical staff. Cross silo collaboration and a willingness to embrace change, for example, and we have found that we, ourselves, cannot avoid doing the same.
“No pressure there then?” I suggest
“It’s the same for everybody right across the country” says Andrew , we are all working around the prejudices and resistance of different generations in both the clinical and the non clinical arena, so keeping the whole enterprise on an even keel and going forward is far from easy.
It would be great if we could simply wait while a generation of entrenched behaviours moved on in one way or another but we don’t have the luxury of time to wait”.
Part of the landscape for Samsung and their collaborators across the board is that post devolution healthcare provision is inextricably tied up with the integration of health and social care thing. But that’s another conversation, for another time.
© 2017 Ockham Healthcare Ltd
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