Innovations in healthcare: What are the pros and cons?

This post was written for, and published by, HIMSS Europe on the 11 March 2016, in the run up to eHealth Week 2016 in Amsterdam. 

The kind of healthcare innovations we find ourselves discussing today are a natural extension to the never-ending innovation medicine has always been about. Always learning, always improving for the betterment of the health and comfort of the people it serves.  An extension from diagnosis and treatment into an even increasing focus of prevention, and better management of the condition. Ignoring this continued innovation, the opportunities to transform the daily lives, at some point and to varying degrees, of hundreds of millions of European citizens would be tragic.

At eHealth Week in Amsterdam, organised by HIMSS Europe, the Dutch Ministry of Health and the European Commission I’m confident we’ll see the fruits of much innovation.

For those who have infrequent interactions with the health service, current healthcare delivery probably seems  OK, but even within this ‘silent majority’, there remains scope for each and every one of us to be better taken care of and for opportunities for preventative or early warning of need for care to interject. Innovative solutions to improve education through communication is hugely important too for public health.

Even if occasional, there is also probably a better way, to say nothing of the economic impact, than the disruption of organising and making the visit to your General Practitioner or other clinician to get a relatively simple issue addressed. And for those of us with more complex medical needs, the opportunities for transformation seem truly open-ended, given how little has changed – from the patient’s perspective – since the dawn of the connected phone, the internet and consumer-focused technology more broadly.

As much as human contact is important – looking into the eyes of your doctor inherently reassures and will have certain advantages for the clinician too, there must surely be scope for technology to replace some of this in-person interchange.

The fear of the unknown shouldn’t blind us from the problems of today

We also shouldn’t be too starry-eyed about the current level of interaction we are able to have with doctors. Intermediaries: administrative personnel or other clinical support team are often part of the picture and access and data doesn’t flow flawlessly or without error. The financial and resource pressures on systems across Europe to sustain the existing delivery models will only increase.

There is however a danger; imposing ‘solutions’ on patients. Some of us live with our conditions for decades, and they’re as much part of our daily lives as anything else we do.

Perhaps more than ever, the delivery of healthcare has to become more personalised. Innovations need to be designed and implemented as a partnership, not least if it requires encouraging people to wear or install equipment into their homes. And dare I mention it: for all the opportunities for long term economic opportunities for countries as a whole, there is presumably going to need to be a mature conversation about the up-front investment requirements. Who will pay for the wearable? Who will train the patient?  Somehow populations – clinicians and patients – across Europe and beyond need to have a voice in what they want, and ultimately be prepared to pay as a society.

Let’s discuss on Twitter about the pros and cons of innovation in healthcare – #eHealthChat

With all these thoughts in mind, I am really excited to participate in the live tweet chat on 12 April at 6 pm CET organised by HIMSS Europe and ICT&Health on such an exciting topic in healthcare at the moment: Innovation. We will discuss the pros and cons of innovation, reading different people’s experience with innovation, both the success stories and the challenges which still need to be overcome. Through these conversations we will be able to overcome our fears of the unknown to make innovation a positive reality.

I look forward to talking to you on Twitter! Don’t forget to use the official hashtag #eHealthChat!

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