I recently explained and referred to data as the 'new oil', and if we understand the true value of data and what it can do for health care then we would now know that there are boundless opportunities that we can carve out to improve service delivery, patient care and save lives.
Apart from tracking trends, deciphering where and when outbreaks may happen, medication being used by whom and in which geographic location, data provides a whole gamut of information we can use at a very personal level.
This would have positive effects on the country's productivity, workforce and health services.
I want to make it clear that I am not in any way speaking of things to come. I am referring to capabilities that already exist in the country and that are already being used by some facilities.
With full digitisation now under way, the University Hospital of the West Indies, for example, can take advantage of these capabilities and make gigantic improvement to its business processes and its clients' health and well-being. Some private medical doctors, dentists, pharmacies and labs are already using some digitised processes and are ripe for full digitisation, which is simply a matter of them deciding when. The required systems and linkages are already here and available.
The systems are capable of a myriad of functions and hundreds of reports can be generated to assist with data analysis.
Among those functions is the ability to easily set up personalised care for patients especially those with chronic illnesses or others who may need to be closely monitored while on outpatient care.
This can be done with very little effort on the part of the user as the system can easily be programmed to perform these functions. This technology enables us to have linkages across the spectrum of the health system - public and private - that we could use to increase patient engagement.
Take persons with diabetes, for example, where much of their problem arises from non-adherence to their care and treatment regime. If their condition is not properly treated and controlled, it can cause complications, including blindness, loss of limbs and kidney failure, which means additional financial burden for patients and their families, a reduction in their quality of life and a strain on the already limited resources in the health sector.
LOGS MADE DIGITAL
The electronic medical records (EMR), made possible through the linkages of the digitised system, would have a log of this patient's history and entire encounter across the health care system.
It would include the medications prescribed and dates for return visits, requirements for follow-up care (which can be done remotely) and any other tests and health-care regime that they may need.
The medical practitioner's office can then set up alerts on the patient's profile to remind them of important dates such as when it is time to refill medication, come in for review, get additional diagnostic tests and any other intervention. This would be an effective way to assist persons to manage their health.
A linked EMR would ensure that every patient is treated on a continuum and not in a vacuum regardless of health care practitioner visited and where on the island they seek care.
Wearable technology and the remote care management tools, such as those offered by DynoSense, can also be used by patients, in the case of the diabetic, to monitor daily blood sugar levels to ensure that they stay on track or seek care as quickly as possible.
This approach can truly revolutionise patient care, improve health seeking behaviour and reduce the burden on the health system, personal finances and the wider economy.
We are a nation trying to head towards phenomenal improvement in our economy and society in just a matter of a few years. The building blocks in health care technology are already in place to achieve this, which could also lead to better patient outcomes and lower costs for all.
Published: Sunday | October 8, 2017 | 10:00 AM Doug Halsall