Immediate and decisive action is needed to remove obstacles and harness the power of data through the integrated use of electronic medical records, artificial intelligence and wearables as global healthcare demands grow, a new report has found.

According to the second 2018 Future Health Index, the right regulation, integration of tech in clinical education, an end to top-down implementations, and the harmonising of data standards are among the steps required to unlock data and save lives.

“As the use of digital health technology continues to increase, data has become the lifeblood of modern healthcare systems,” the report says.

Through an analysis of data from 16 countries and interviews with global leaders in value-based healthcare, the index commissioned by Philips unearthed practical insights designed to accelerate the collection, analysis and use of healthcare information.

Following on from the first Future Health Index 2018, the new report investigates the lack of integration in the EHR landscape, barriers to the deployment of AI in healthcare and the increasing use of wearables and other connected care devices.

The need to collect and tame data is urgent in order to provide faster and more accurate diagnosis and better care outcomes, Philips Chief Medical Officer Dr Jan Kimpen wrote in blog post announcing the launch of the index.

“[The] integration of high-quality data – held within effective information and analysis systems – is key to dealing with the increased demands being placed upon public health, health systems and care workers,” he wrote.

“The aging population and the burden of chronic diseases, together with unsustainable cost trajectories and increased staff burnout, these challenges require immediate and decisive action.”

The technologies that could solve critical problems in healthcare exist but urgent steps need to be taken to get them working together.

“[As] connected devices and systems proliferate, the reality we must contend with is that health systems around the world are still struggling to organise, analyse and apply health data in a way that maximises productivity and improved outcomes,” the index says.

It makes five key recommendations, including “get regulation right”. 

“Clearly defined policies and robust data privacy and security standards at the national level build confidence in all parts of the healthcare continuum and help healthcare institutions develop their own data codes of practice, as well as encouraging healthcare professionals and the general population to collect, share and analyse data with greater confidence."

According to the index, 89 per cent of nurses and 88 per cent of doctors believe EHR integration to be extremely or somewhat important, while a Stanford Medicine study found 71 per cent of physicians believe EHRs are a major contributor to healthcare professional burnout. It recommends modernising clinical education.

“Healthcare professionals won’t demand EHRs and AI tools at work if they don’t learn to rely on them during medical training. Increasing healthcare professionals’ adoption of these tools must start with their integration into medical school curriculums.”

It also recommends an end to tech implementations being foisted upon clinicians. 

“Healthcare professionals are unlikely to adopt new tools when they’re presented as a ‘fait accompli’ by technologists. Creating EHRs and AI solutions in collaboration with both healthcare professionals and the general population will have a significant impact on successful integration.”

To harmonise data standards companies, healthcare professionals and governments in each market are urged to collaborate on reaching a greater consensus on data formats and protocols.

Meanwhile, given the confidential and consequential nature of the data they handle, the benefits of the technologies need to be constantly measured, proven and explained to healthcare practitioners and patients.

“Without this, there’s the risk that concerns about these technologies will dominate the discussion. FHI data shows that more than 55 per cent of the general population would least want their health data to be made public if they were hacked,” the index says.

For Kimpen, digital technology, data innovation and new working methods will deliver a far-reaching transformation of healthcare, improving access, experiences and outcomes forever. The alternative is to drown in data.

“From my point of view, the priority must be to support patients, health systems, care professionals and governments to make the most sense of their data, not to drown in it! All whilst providing a working infrastructure to manage vital issues like cybersecurity, technology integration and the long-term transition towards systems that deliver better outcomes and experiences at lower cost,” he wrote.

In addition to studying EHR interoperability, the report looks at the integration of EHRs into the e-citizenship agenda, enlisting payers – such as insurers – in the drive for adoption, and transforming health organisations into data organisations.

 

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