WHAT NOW, FOR HEALTHCARE IN EUROPE?

We interview the VP of HIMSS EMEA, Sean Roberts, newly moved to the UK from his native California, for his plans for HIMSS over the next twelve months – and his view of healthcare on this side of the Atlantic. HIMSS is the largest healthcare trade association in the world. Its annual Global Conference resonates around the world; European healthcare vendors, particularly from Scandinavia, use the USA as their launch pad for their European and even domestic healthcare promotion.

It is not the first time that Sean and I have met. Sean is an anglophile. The last time of any significance, that we met, we went to a rather bijou little restaurant somewhere in south west London on one of his frequent stop-offs. It is rare to find an American with such a detailed knowledge of eating places in London where tourists don’t go.

This time it is different. We are in Zoom territory now. Sean has much shorter dark hair this time – he is wearing a dark blue t-shirt, the background in his home office is bare white, and he looks quizzically at the PC screen;

“Can you hear me now?

I get up and move around my own office.

“Yep! I’ve got a better connection if I stand just here….”

And this is no stop-off. Sean has moved his whole family, wife, and dog – across the Atlantic, to use London as the base so to say, for promoting better clinical management and outreach, in Europe. It is an irony compounded by the fact that the HIMSS Global Chief Clinical Director, who advises the PHE – is also already UK based.

Obviously, COVID dominates the first part of the conversation. And I ask; “So, at a time when each European country is fending for itself, why choose the UK?”

Sean hesitates and replies; “it is because English is de facto the international language, but above all, because your frontline NHS worker bees, are so “resilient”.” It is a word Sean uses several times in our conversation.

And it is not because the UK has best healthcare COVID outcomes. That accolade goes to Denmark. They plan on doing 5.5 million vaccinations, by July 2021 and everyone’s bet is that they will do this. I concur; my last time running through CPH just a few months ago, my passport control took just a few seconds and even before getting my bag, there was a nice young Danish girl in blue uniform asking me “would I like a COVID test? It’s free of charge for all visitors”. I was directed through the arrivals area, up some steps and into a covered area, and within twenty minutes tops, I had my first COVID test. “Yes, we will call you at your Hoel in day or two of there are any probs”, the nice nurse said.

What Sean is able to do, is make comparisons between one country and another, and make suggestions to each government, each hospital -“Look, have you thought about mirroring how these other people do it? Their outcomes are better”.

Looking outside one’s own internal bubble, and learning from others, is a key message that Sean is trying to promote in the UK. And the delivery of this message is not without its problems. It may not all be to do with technology, but more about national culture. Those countries that do best in containing COVID, are those who have an implicit trust in their governments. If the government says this is the right road, then this is what we will do.

Despite the fact that we are a Telehealth society now, we are hampered by the lowest common denominator in terms of wifi connectivity. The growth of Telehealth, of video conferencing, has not been because surgeries and hospitals want to go down that road, it is because they have had to take that avenue. The success of Telehealth and remote consultation at surgery and hospital vet, is directly related to each individual organisation’s willingness to adopt these new processes.

But having said that, Sean continues, these messages are getting through. IHE and HL7 and links with the WHO, are the new common standards, and HIMSS has a programme for 2021, for increasing its pan Europe roll out. The next Conference, which may well be hybrid, will be again based around Finland and their new initiatives, – it is scheduled for 7th-10th June.

Scandinavia remains a natural point of departure for HIMSS EMEA, and there is a sadness that only 5% of visitors to HIMSS events are from the UK. In the same way that just a year ago, nobody had heard of COVID – so life and healthcare is a different process now. Let’s see in June if the message has got through.

IF A.I. IS SO IMPORTANT… CAN SOMEBODY PLEASE EXPLAIN WHAT IT WILL ACTUALLY DO?

We look at some examples of the  new focus in healthcare and ask; really?

The recent announcement of the upcoming HIMSS Impact 2018| Leading Digital Transformation and Big Data in Medicine – conference in Berlin later this year, coincides with an announcement in the uk from the Government, that it is now investing zillions into “AI”, to combat various troublesome diseases.

In theory,  and indeed in reality, a new focus on a different way of  handling patient information, will save time, not necessarily save money, but enable our services to do lots more. And it comes about because there are just too many people, needing too many services. And as one clinical director told me; ‘we can hardly put a new clinic in the hospital car park..”

But  at a time when most Hospitals are still coming to terms about moving from Windows XP, there are three major stumbling blocks, and it is important to spell these out before we all get too excited.

First – if the UK Gov attempts to roll out this Finance in the same way as it has done for previous bjg deals, let’s say such as COGDE or Scan 4 Safety, etc.. then nothing much new will happen at all. Those hospitals that did take up either of the above, have largely  spent money on things they were already doing – so it just became a way of getting finance but not improvement; or they embark on a lengthy process of milestones that alas could have been done cheaper and faster with existing tech in the private sector. 

The result is that those Hospitals that did not make the cut, so to say, have become confused, and do nothing, as opposed to at least try to do “something”. What we have found is that if the management of a hospital wants to advance its healthcare performance, it will do so, regardless of Gov announcements.

Second – AI is not a Hospital process, but a Community process. This means that the data from a patient does not require said patient to come to a clinic or be seen by anybody in a place called a hospital. The data is patient driven and comes from his/her smartphone, his Apple Watch, her Fitbit, etc – without anybody doing anything much. In other words, AI in health is consumer driven,   and there are already plenty of Apps that harness very specialist health data from each and everyone of us, that can already be viewed by our GP or Hospital. The secret to AI health is by increasing patient engagement.

But finally – we need to understand what all this will do to our actual lives. What AI means, is that our diabetes, our heart, our fitness, can be monitored remotely – and we ourselves will take greater ownership of our lifestyle. 

This means that conventional financial models of where money comes from and for what – have to change. The focus will be empowering the community, and paying hospitals to monitor that – rather than get paid only when we physically make a visit.

Because if this does not happen, then health provision will move to pharmacies, etc, who will provide this monitoring for us – and we will pay them money to do so, because it will be immediate and in real time – instead of waiting to see our local GP or clinic appointment.

Which in turn will distance us from the very organisations we already pay money to, to look after us.

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