We chat with HIMSS Global Clinical Director, Charles Alessi, about where healthcare is going for all of us, and what will be the key changes. It’s a wide ranging discussion…
It’s an obvious question with no obvious answer, because our original assessments of just 10 months ago, may well be incorrect.
Charles Alessi looks intently at me across the screen, we are on FaceTime, – he is dressed casually in a pastel coloured polo shirt, sitting in his relaxed lounge area of his home in south west London, there are rows of books behind, a sort of academic university professor ambience and it reminds me of my own one/one sessions all those years ago. As a former Chair of the UK’s National Association of Primary Care, and as an advisor to WHO – Charles is well placed to be talking about the problems of our time.
And COVID per se, may not be one of them. “There have always been pandemics,” he says. This particular COVID-19 is really a child of the 21st century, perfectly suited to our super connected societies where global travel between dense population centres is as common as a daily commute” Charles is more referring to our personal ability to survive and manage ourselves in lockdown, or rather – survive the absence of face/face proper contact, and the distance management that is the glue that holds us all together and allows us to cope.
“Starting the day at 08.00am, from my living room, with a call to Tokyo – and then a 10.00 call to Berlin – with London time zone calls in between – and then the 17.00 call with California – all whilst sitting in my own arm chair and not having moved an inch – is not what our bodies and brains are designed for. We as humans, need the travel time, to adjust, to refocus, to wind down between sessions, so to say.”
So no – our Lifestyles have not changed for ever. We will inevitably return to the travel to meetings, as soon as it is safe to so do – because we are becoming disorientated without doing so.
Healthcare on the other hand, has indeed changed, and we cannot put the genie back in the bottle. It is obvious that telehealth, or telemedicine, and the remote monitoring of our conditions by clinicians, makes sense, and reduces costs. And where all of us are moving towards a single version of truth of our own health. And yet, this democratising of healthcare – Charles argues – has not happened. And so we have systems and processes designed to fix individual instances, but where in times of a pandemic, are forcing whole decades of instances into just a few months or even weeks. How can we possibly cope?
The key to where our health processes should be going, is at the beginning, where we stop being a binary society, – assuming we are all “well” – until we flick the switch one random day and find we are sick, we have a lump, a pain, whatever. And then we go to places called hospitals to fix the issue.
Our focus now should be the age of precision early management of our individual health. At a time when you and I as individuals already know from the data on our wrist, what is wrong with us even before the doctor ever speaks to us, we are now in a position to manage where our own health data and symptoms, and what Charles calls “non communicable diseases” , can take us, for our own good.
I was expecting somehow a medical discussion and yet this was not it. This was a look at where society is going, and what are we doing as society. But you and I as individuals, are society.
I always remember being late substantially for a meeting. I called ahead, as if my excuse – “I am in traffic!” – was good enough.
“But you are the traffic”, was the response.