Technology points to a more autonomous future in the health sector

2022-06-15 12:07:27 By : Mr. Shaofeng Zhang

Ukraine-Russia War |Latest news of the war conflictThe digitization of health is, according to experts, a complement to face-to-face care and allows more time to be dedicated to those who need it mostThe covid pandemic has brought about an unprecedented revolution in the field of digital health, accelerating the implementation of new technologies that have already changed our way of understanding medical and health care.In fact, it is undeniable that the use of these tools and telemedicine during the worst moments of the pandemic brought positive consequences.This was analyzed by various experts in the first edition of the cycle "The eHealth What If Forum", organized at the end of 2021 by the eHealth Center of the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), who highlighted how telematic care prevented the health system from being collapse at a time of maximum pressure.They also agreed that digitization helped speed up many healthcare processes, and made it clear that large amounts of patient-generated data could be optimally managed and analyzed.An issue that has been debated for years: the value of big data in the medical sector.The experts also recognized areas for improvement, such as the fact that some applications, such as those developed for contact tracing, did not prove to be truly useful.And they noted that some patients perceived digitization as an unwanted and lower-quality substitution for face-to-face care.A perception that they denied by defending that a well-developed digital health does not imply a dehumanization of health, but rather that it is a complement and allows more time to be dedicated to those who need it most.Given this breeding ground, and at a time when the pandemic is beginning to give way, it is logical to wonder at what point the relationship between technology and health is.Cloud computing, artificial intelligence, 5G and IoT enable hospitals and health systems to address current and future challengesAccording to data from the consulting firm Global Market Insights, the global digital health market was valued at more than 200,000 million US dollars in 2020, and the figure is expected to exceed 600,000 million dollars by 2027. And, as it also points out the consulting firm Deloitte in its report “2022 Global Health Care Outlook.Are we finally seeing the long-promised transformation?”, a context of great medical advances is added to the pandemic;an explosion of digital technologies;access to data and its analysis;informed and empowered patients;and a trend that advocates self-care, prevention and well-being, which will further catalyze this transformation of the world of health.In fact, the same report already shows that hospitals and health systems are currently turning to cloud computing, 5G telecommunications, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) to address current challenges and also create new models of health care delivery.These are technologies that, in the coming years, will be much more present and that, in addition to establishing a new model of doctor-patient relationship, will allow us to be more agile in the prevention and detection of certain diseases or in the monitoring of certain chronic patients.Two aspects that, precisely the pandemic and the saturation of the health system, have forced to leave in the background.Artificial intelligence, for example, will make it possible to speed up diagnosis and analyze images;and, combined with augmented reality, it will improve the safety of patients during interventions.Likewise, the intelligent use of patient data, big data, will also transform the way of diagnosing, will allow theAlthough digital health is already a reality, present and future, entities such as the Spanish Patient Forum remind us that the elderly -almost 10 million in Spain are over 65 years old- continue to have problems accessing it.“They have lost the form of access to health that they usually used, the telephone by virtue of the appointment by mobile or web application;the quality of communication with your healthcare professional, when moving from face-to-face appointments to telemedicine;and their access to information has been limited by reducing the delivery of information on paper and having all the information on the Internet”, they recently stated.All this, they added, makes them more dependent people.They ask for alternatives for access to the health system for the elderly living in rural areas with low connectivity or basic training for the elderly on the Internet and health, among other demands.Digital health faces the challenge of the digital divide and its limitationspersonalization of treatments, will help to identify risk factors and establish possible side effects of medications, and will improve the results and general productivity of the health sector.Deloitte pointed this out in another article entitled “The acceleration of digitization in health.Five predictions about the health sector for 2025”.Among those five predictions, it is mentioned that the home will be the usual place for routine health care and monitoring.In this sense, Neil Batra, one of the experts who has participated in the "2022 Global Health Care Outlook" report, also foresees the use of digital technologies to "build, staff and equip a 'hospital without walls' that combines hospital care with alternative models, including community and home care”.And he adds: “In the future, patients and their families will assume responsibility for a large part of their medical care;and they are going to need advanced digital tools that allow them to do so.”Big data will transform the way of diagnosing and will allow the personalization of treatmentsThis speaks of empowerment and greater autonomy, both for the patient and for the health personnel, another of the trends that can be glimpsed in the sector.And he connects with another of the five predictions advanced by Deloitte: hospitals will be reserved for specialized treatments, trauma and emergencies.The rest of the forecasts advance that many of the doctor-patient contacts will be carried out virtually;that more than 70% of Spaniards will make their inquiries by video call;and that patients will be better informed about their genetic profile, their current health and possible future diseases.The consultancy also establishes in its report "TMT 2022 Predictions" that smartwatches (intelligent watches) and wearable medical devices will help patients monitor their health at all times, not only when they play sports.With functionalities that go beyond measuring heart rate and counting steps, and that will allow you to control aspects such as body temperature, atrial fibrillation, blood oxygenation, blood pressure or sugar levels.These devices, which also include adhesive strips, smartphones connected to applications or biosensors, will be of great help in dealing with the saturation of the health system, the aging of the population and the large investment of resources that they entail. chronic diseases.Before, however, several obstacles have to be overcome: gaining the trust of the medical sector, which is skeptical about its usefulness and accuracy, and responding to concerns regarding the privacy, security and protection of its users' data.Something that is also transferred to the rest of the technologies linked to the new digital health.Still, sales of these consumer health devices and wellness wearables are projected to grow to more than 320 million units by 2022.But, as discussed in the UOC's "The eHealth What If Forum" cycle, the digital transformation of the sector is not only a matter of technology, but it is also a matter of people, "of professionals and citizens, and it implies a cultural and organizational change”, according to Albert Barberà, director of the UOC's eHealth Center.The experts also agreed that it is important to develop simple and accessible products and technologies that are tailored to the specific needs of patients.Without forgetting issues such as the digital divide, which can pose a great risk if older patients end up being excluded.Another priority aspect must be the continuous training, and in many cases specialized, of all health professionals in the use of these technologies, helping them to develop their digital skills and providing them with the necessary resources so that they do not feel that more than a solution is a added work overload.The sale of wearables for wellness and health monitoring will increase to more than 320 million units in 2022After this first wave of technology derived from the covid pandemic, it is correct to affirm that good steps are being taken.Technologies will ensure better efficiency and greater sustainability of the system, and will help health coverage reach many more people.But to transform the model we must continue working in the coming years.It is a matter of time before our way of understanding health and the national health system, but also international telemedicine, changes substantially.As the experts say, while the challenge is huge, so is the opportunity we have.La Meva Salut (LMS) is the digital platform that allows citizens to have direct, non-face-to-face access to Primary Care professionals in Catalonia, as well as their personal medical information: test results, reports and clinical diagnoses , medication plan, digital vaccination certificate, prescriptions, etc.The covid pandemic has accelerated the use of this tool and has exponentially shot up its number of users.Although in December 2019 LMS had some 600,000 registered people, the figure is now close to 5,300,000 users, according to data provided, at the beginning of February, by the Department of Health of the Generalitat.This means that the number of users has multiplied by 5.3 compared to before the covid.This acceleration is due, in part, to some of the functionalities that the platform has implemented to respond to needs arising from the pandemic: the display of PCR and antigen test results, the processing of sick leave or obtaining of the European digital certificate of vaccination.But eConsulta has also played a prominent role, which allows messages to be sent to reference health professionals, and which is used by more than two million people.As well as, more recently, a new function to contact the administrative staff, do paperwork and send documents.All people who have a health card can access the LMS from or from its app.© La Vanguardia Ediciones, SLU All rights reserved.