A guest post from Ron Emerson, Polycom’s Global Director of Healthcare. Ron is a Registered Nurse and respected expert on telehealth. He is also a former member of the board of Directors for the American Telemedicine Association and Chair of the Industry Council.
Effective healthcare delivery in the face of today’s challenges will rely on innovation and collaboration technology being the enablers. In my previous blog post, I discussed these points and why telehealth and technology solutions will be critical to the future of healthcare, as the industry moves towards a more patient-centred model of care delivery. In this post, we present perspectives from two medical technology experts, one from New Zealand and the other from Australia: Dr. John Garrett, Paediatrican and Telehealth Clinical Leader, Canterbury and West Coast District Health Board and Dr. Simon Kos, Health Industry Market Development Manager at Microsoft Australia.
What technologies will drive healthcare innovation over the next decade or so?
John Garrett: “Many complex systems work in the background to support a consultation between a clinician and a patient, including the scheduling of the appointment, and the storing of the patient’s clinical information. They have been designed on the premise that the patient and clinician will be in the same physical location. Over the next ten years these systems will evolve to account for the fact that the clinician and the patient may be in different locations. At the same time, the telehealth tools being used will become more and more integrated with the clinical information and patient management systems.”
Simon Kos: “The current interest in health-related wearable sensors like smart watches and fitness bands will increase, creating a rich sea of data to empower more personalised management of wellness and health lifestyles. The consumer domain of wellness will intersect with the traditional health system, and we will see health coaching supporting patients to become more active in managing their own conditions. These shifts are already occurring and represent an opportunity for more effective health service delivery.”
What are the challenges we need to overcome today to enable a positive healthcare future?
John Garrett: “Today, some healthcare systems struggle to support the number of people that require care. The traditional approach of patients and clinicians coming together in the same physical location is becoming unsustainable, because ’bricks and mortar‘ healthcare facilities are stretched to capacity, and expanding this capacity is very expensive. At the same time, there is increasing evidence that many patients do better if they are able to receive care in or close to their own homes; and that they generally prefer this. It is possible to address these two issues simultaneously by the thoughtful application of videoconferencing, tele-monitoring, and mHealth applications.”
Simon Kos: “Pressures like our ageing population and rising rates of chronic disease will necessitate new models of care and service delivery. Funding and investment will determine our progress. The challenge in today’s cost-sensitive environment is not to do more with less, but to do more with new.”
What will future modes of care delivery will look like?
John Garrett: “In order for the healthcare sector to fully embrace these technology advancements, clinicians and patients need to find technology that is reliable and easy-to-use. In addition, the information transferred through these technology applications and devices, needs to be of a very high standard, as it forms the basis of important decisions made about the patient’s care. It also needs to be completely secure to maintain patient privacy. The hardware required to support the level of video quality needed for a patient consultation is still for the most part, only found in healthcare settings. If device and software manufacturers can make this technology cheaper and more portable, and provide secure cloud based access, patients will be able to collaborate with their clinician from the comfort of their own homes.”
Simon Kos: “The emphasis on health services will increasingly shift from acute care hospitals into the community and home, and clinical systems supported by connected mobile devices will play an enabling role. Telehealth will increasingly start to virtualise health provider visits, improving access for those in rural and remote locations.”
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