The Philips Future Health Index editorial team is always on the look-out for great content pieces that discuss the future of health, selecting the most interesting health-related stories for you to read.
Ahead of the launch of our fourth Future Health Index report, ‘Transforming healthcare experiences: Exploring the impact of digital health technology on healthcare professionals and patients’, the results this year were previewed in an hour-long webinar with Philips Chief Medical Officer, Jan Kimpen on May 29th. Joining Jan were Patricia Mechael, Co-founder and Policy Lead at HealthEnabled and Technical Lead for the Global Digital Health Index; and Dr. K. Elizabeth Hawk, Clinical Instructor, Stanford University School of Medicine, Department of Radiology, Division of Nuclear Medicine; Radiologist, Matrix Division, Radiology Partners.
The engaging discussion covered the core themes featured in this year’s research and explored how these findings are translated in reality. Highlights included:
1. Engaged and digitally enhanced healthcare professionals:
Jan Kimpen: In the Future Health Index, we refer to ‘Engaged and digitally supported healthcare professionals’. More healthcare professionals are using technologies like digital health records (DHRs) and telehealth – 76% are using DHRs in their hospital or practice, for example. But usage of other technologies, such as AI, are not at these high rates yet.
Patricia, you have studied the way we are preparing those working in healthcare around the world for the integration of digital technologies and tools. How can health systems better train and educate healthcare professionals to ensure that we’re building a truly digital-first workforce?
Patricia Mechael: Healthcare professionals are rarely prepared for how to use data when they’re training for clinical practice. They may be receiving the latest information when it comes to clinical diagnostics, but they’re not being trained in the communications and data techniques that they’ll need to use alongside this.
Education and government need to work together. We need to look at how we’re embedding these tools in how we’re educating healthcare professionals – building a culture of data use. If we do this, no matter what technologies come down the line, healthcare professionals will be more ready to adopt those new ways of working. We need to think about the skills needed for the next 10 or 15 years and build on-site continuous education programming.
It’s all about having a deeper and more meaningful interaction for the patient and enabling a physician to practice better medicine.
K. Elizabeth Hawk
Clinical Instructor, Stanford University School of Medicine, Department of Radiology, Division of Nuclear Medicine; Radiologist, Matrix Division, Radiology Partners
2. Empowered patients – access to data, more control:
Jan Kimpen: The most important part of healthcare is, of course, the patient. In the Future Health Index, we see that they are looking for information and control over almost all aspects of their lives and that giving them access to their own data makes them far more likely to engage with it in a way that will improve the quality of care they receive and their overall experience. Those who share their health data with their healthcare professional (74%), for example, are more likely to rate the quality of care as good, very good or excellent than those that don’t (66%).
Elizabeth, the research indicates that access to a DHR can help give the patient a richer healthcare experience – how have you seen this at play in your field of radiology and do you think that healthcare professionals in general are aware of the impact DHRs can have on the patient experience?
K. Elizabeth Hawk: In radiology, when you acquire an image, it’s a snapshot of that patient in a moment in time. But it’s just a snapshot – you need the context of the patient to interpret it. And that requires access to DHRs on both the patient and healthcare professional sides.
When patients are more involved in their care, anecdotally we do see better outcomes – they develop a richer and more sophisticated understanding of their health journey. Giving patients this access not only empowers them, but it builds a better relationship between physician and patient. And narrowing this disconnect can have a dramatic impact on physician burnout, too.
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Jan Kimpen: In this year’s Future Health Index, we are seeing that some ‘forerunner’ countries have leapfrogged others and are seeing increasingly commonplace use of digital health technologies. Our research indicates that telehealth adoption is higher among healthcare professionals in countries with lower physician density – such as China, which has 1.81 physicians per 1,000 people (15-country average: 2.68) , but 89% of its healthcare professionals have used telehealth (15-country average: 61%).
I wonder if you both have seen this trend in your work and what, in countries where the physician density is higher, can be done to drive telehealth use?
Patricia Mechael: Most of my work is in low and middle-income countries with low physician density and we see huge adoption and use of telehealth. Where there are more doctors, distribution is still a challenge. Doctors may not be where the population needs them to be – telehealth can support more equitable and equal access. With aging populations, there’s a desire for the convenience of a tele consultation. Younger people want to engage with healthcare as they do with everything else, they’re the face time generation. So, if you can add telehealth to the mix, there’s a greater likelihood that people will seek out healthcare.
K. Elizabeth Hawk: At their inception, the likes of telehealth and AI began as productivity tools. But we’re seeing a new paradigm now, as we move from volume to value-based care. As we use these tools, we’re no longer focusing on the quantity of care, but focusing on the excellence of what we’re doing. In the US, we can drive telehealth use by showing its potential to elevate the level of care we’re able to provide to our patient population.
We need to think about the skills needed for the next 10 or 15 years and build on-site continuous education programming.
Co-founder and Policy Lead at HealthEnabled and Technical Lead for the Global Digital Health Index
4. Conclusions: How can health systems best prepare themselves for continuous transformation?
Jan Kimpen: Challenges evolve from country to country. The important thing is for individuals and health systems to be prepared for change. As barriers are broken down, new challenges will arise and it will be important to anticipate what’s coming next. The adoption of data-driven healthcare is a journey, not a one-time event. Challenges and needs will evolve from country to country and, as certain barriers fall away, new ones will emerge.
Do you both have any final remarks on how health systems or individuals can best set up for this kind of transformation?
Patricia Mechael: The reality is that tech will continue to advance. Both healthcare professional and patient roles are going to change, so we need to figure out what these role changes are going to look like and get ahead of them so that we can harness technology and deliver better care.
K. Elizabeth Hawk: It’s all about a culture shift. When we weave these technologies in, we need to think about how we’re doing just that and not replacing things. It’s all about having a deeper and more meaningful interaction for the patient and enabling a physician to better practice medicine.
The 2019 Future Health Index full report will be launched on the 11th June and explores the impact of digital health technology on healthcare professionals and patients.
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