The Kings Fund work as an independent charity to improve health and healthcare in England ensuring the best possible care is available to all.  Holding varied events throughout the year, the return of the International Digital Health and Care Congress took its annual place for 2014.    kf-logo2

From healthcare professionals to researchers and many individuals alike, the topics and debates surrounding healthcare entering the digital world, opens doors and avenues to many possibilities and possible solutions to problems, resolving issues for years to come.

Over a period of three days, minds alike took to the congress in hopes to show, discuss and view what the future of healthcare holds with the introduction of digital input. As DCC work closely with The Kings Fund we were able to attend the congress and see what researchers and healthcare professionals were moving towards in the era of science and the digital world.

Introducing systems such as health care to technology has, from many points of views, seen its advantages and disadvantages. However, one of the most advanced movements that were present from the onset of the event was the use of applications on mobile devices to improve health care. Maximillian Johnston and his team from Imperial Collage London believe there is major fall in the handover process between healthcare professionals. In order to improve this they have developed an app which allows all healthcare professionals within a hospital to access patient information which is required to make the handover process easier, with less errors, ensuring all jobs are carried our efficiently and completed,  which in effect should result in better patient care. Whilst introducing their app, they stated the birth of the idea was born through the lack of attention given to the handover process. At present healthcare professionals use pagers which are seen as inefficient as the piece of technology cannot handle the demand and pace of hospital life. They also stated that having such back dated technology meant that professionals were being pulled from one end of the hospital to another without being able to prioritise their set tasks, based on importance. They believe the use of the application, which has not been given a name as of yet, will improve theses services and allow professionals and their teams to pick up notifications and tasks on their devices whereby they can prioritise and carry out their work in the best way possible. Taking all of this into consideration it could be seen that firstly, an app of the type has already been created and if thorough research had been done it would have been identified. Secondly, apps such as this can take away the human element to such jobs. This then means staff will have less interaction with one another during the process which may immunise the system, taking away the colleague relationship for as long as apps like these are used.

Patient Reported Outcome Measure which is provided by Care-Response is a cloud based system, which allows clinical services to record and measure the outcome of their services. This is done through online questionnaires that are tailored to the patients and can be completed on devices as well as paper based. The aim is the help develop the service and healthcare. This then means the clinicians have more time as the PROM’s are thought to be carried out through the NHS where applicable with the efforts to eliminate the use of paper. However, it became apparent that using cloud based systems then means that delicate information may become accessible to others. One of the other issues raised is that although this is ought to decrease the amount of paper, for those elderly patients who wish to use paper still can. As the UK has an ageing population, will the transfer from paper to digital ever happen in this case?

Paul Rice, Head of technology strategy at NHS England talked about a paperless NHS. By intelligently storing records digitally, there is less use of paper as all will be accessed online. This type of paperless network is aimed at GP’s. The aim of the project is for comprehensive health records where digital transactions and a digital service can be provided in order to lower operating costs and which is a flexible system for GP’s to use. However, as discussed at the event, some of the drawbacks are that GP’s themselves are not open to operating new technology and getting used to it. They fear the confidentiality can be lost as systems such as this will allow patient to be seen from home via their computers.  There is also a fear of risk and the number of elements that can go wrong. As he nature of the job is very delicate, the argument was based around having to diagnose through technology. Another concern was not wanting to scrap paper as if systems go down; they will not be able to carry on with their work. This in effect can cause patient dissatisfaction.

As mentioned previously the biggest topic at the digital conference was the use of apps. Charles Lowe, Managing Director at Digital Health & Care Alliance, talked about apps and how they will be beneficial to the NHS. He argued that the strong points are that it allows patient monitoring which can lead to better medication adherence and accuracy encouraging a beneficial change. This can also help the treatment of some conditions and allow patient to give eliciting feedback where by managers are able to advice and change things in order to better the service. However, discussed by Charles, there is a huge fear of uncertainty and doubt among professionals, and the need to reinvent the apps to keep them up to date can be an issue as well as there not being an objective measure of benefit verses cost. There is also a huge worry of information being lost and the uncertainty of what science the apps are based on and if they are reliable.

From the congress it is apparent that the belief of apps on mobile devices is the way forward and the integration of digital technology and healthcare is the way forward. However, there is also much concern around the safety and reliability of technology and software in an environment as such. DCC also found there was a large gap missing where the realisation of reinvention in order to keep the apps new and relevant was missing. There was also much revert ideas which are already present in the health care arena at the moment and DCC felt a lack of research on the behalf of some. However, the understanding is that nothing will be clear and the efficiency and outcome of the app’s cannot be measured without being introduced and so the challenge is to put the new toys into play and see how well they work.

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