Science and medicine continue to advance at an astonishing rate thanks to technological innovation. We have already seen digital health solutions that promise to transform patient care in our lifetime. While these advancements are indeed groundbreaking for the healthcare industry, there are still basic day-to-day care processes in hospitals across the country ripe for improvement by applying technology.
Most physicians have long enjoyed the benefits of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. As health systems focused on ensuring doctors had access to state-of-the-art health IT to monitor their patients when they couldn’t be at the bedside, the quality of tools and pace of adoption for nursing solutions did not keep up. In some situations, nurses received bulky phones that could only be used within the walls of the hospital, while physicians needed to download specific apps on their own devices to receive calls from the nurses’ devices. Technical difficulties were frequent. In other situations, health systems tried rolling out solutions to nurses that had been used successfully by physicians. Unfortunately, those solutions were not always conducive to nurses’ workflow.
As we celebrate National Health IT Week, it is incredible to realize how health technology tools are transforming every facet of patient care. From telehealth, to 3D printers to artificial intelligence, the explosion of personalized health devices redefines the dynamics of patient treatment and interactions.
However, we still fall short in comparison to other industries, particularly in terms of consistent patient information access, and the lack of incentive for industry collaboration to achieve smooth, interoperable data transfers. This week, we strike a balance between applauding our progress, yet refusing to rest on our laurels.
In a variety of recent private and panel discussions with health and policy leaders, I’ve heard encouraging talk around interoperability through open and available application programming interfaces (APIs). Public comments by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt indicate there is sincere commitment to making this a reality.
While this momentum seems promising, when Meaningful Use Stage 3 is mentioned – particularly its requirements for making data available to patient facing applications – I see the potential for unintended and terrible consequences for clinician workflows.
Breaking down the silos between data sources and departments involves a complex blend of technology and people that, not surprisingly, can result in conflict along the way. However, the ultimate goal remains the same for all: protect the patient. Understanding the concerns of each department and encouraging communication amongst the groups can reduce this tension, allowing for innovation to take hold and enhance care throughout an organization.
We are currently at a crossroads in the healthcare industry. Executives are working overtime to try to figure out how to connect and integrate data to best support clinical practice and patient care management. With health systems concerned about balancing both needs, they now need to figure out how to leverage data to get the best value out of their investment. Improvement and innovation in technology are slowly but surely enhancing the industry, but health systems are constantly being assaulted with software companies trying to sell them something. Thus, healthcare executives are left with the eternal question: Which pieces fit together best to create value and improve patient care?
When it comes to mHealth, most industrialised nations such as the U.S. and Europe have a head start. Money for healthcare technology investments is available, the infrastructure is in place, and most of the population is already engaged in the healthcare system.
As a country of about 52 million people, South Africa shares many characteristics with its larger brethren. There is a mix of public and private healthcare providers and health insurance plans, physician shortages in key areas, and South Africa is beset by many of the same chronic diseases that industrialised countries face (cardiovascular and obesity-related diseases, diabetes, etc.).