We look at how patients are becoming consumers and are driving the growth of virtual technology in healthcare.
One of the most relevant discussions for the future of UK healthcare, was not taken in any formal setting. My colleague was not visible on my Skype screen, and I was some 500 miles distant, sitting on my sofa, drinking tea.
It is an irony that is not lost on either of us. At a time when the key assumption of the benefit of the HIMSS 2018 Conference, is face to face interaction, my counterpart Kaveh Safavi of Accenture is eloquently discussing the essential benefits of his Presentation on virtual healthcare, that he made just a few hours earlier sitting in Barcelona; and I am nowhere to be found.
“Virtual healthcare” has taken over as the buzzword from the more difficult term “A.I”, which nobody could understand. And it is not before time. If the WHO is saying that by the year 2030, we will have a shortage of some 15 million healthcare professionals – the one thing we don’t need is to carry on putting in place more and more clinics, with longer and longer waiting times, for an ever increasing number of patients, with nursing staff that we do not have. Better option is first enabling our existing resources to work optimally.
We have reached a critical moment where the population (that’s you and I) – are increasingly comfortable using our smartphones, our Apple Watches, our connected meters, etc – to deliver our our health data to responsible health people who can manage this. But our health service providers are standing still in their acceptance that things have to change. And so, if this remote interaction works – and the technology exists to bring health data remotely into the distant screens – why is the rate of traction in Europe and certainly the UK – so slow?
The answer is many and varied, and it comes from not communicating the benefits – and also a myopic fear on the part of our providers, of losing their jobs or reducing their salaries. From experience of automation in the commercial sector, neither of those latter scenarios actually would take place.
So far, virtual healthcare has been limited in its explanation, to automatically registering a patient appointment – to go to a clinic, let’s say. But this misses the point. The real benefit is far deeper than that. If we associate virtual healthcare with long standing conditions, let’s say Diabetes for example – (where remote tech is now starting to get traction) – patients and providers will get the immediate benefit of more rapid diagnosis, more motivated and engaged patients, far less cost per patient in monitoring. And they need never visit a clinic at all. In some clinics, holograms have taken over from even seeing a real person.
In short – virtual healthcare is convenient. It also increases the “quality” of the service provided; Because sure if things are wrong and your data is untoward – only then do you go to your clinic, and your Nurse will have far more time to see you, and your discussion will already be personalised and entirely based on the health data you have already sent, in real time, through the very technology you are already wearing on your wrist. You will not be rushed out of the door.
I take a pause in my dialogue with Kaveh and glance at my Apple Health app on my watch – my heart is beating a bit quicker, apparently. I think I’ll take another cup of tea.