How Our Digital Solutions Need to Evolve to Meet New Care Pathways
By Michael Davies, Chief Executive Officer at Global Health
For decades, hospitals have been developed to be the centre of medical care for acute and chronic conditions. The rationale for this was demonstrable, as hospitals served as centres of excellence with a density of expertise where resources could be pooled efficiently. To make these originally paper-based institutions function required hospitals to build large scale, complex systems to administer patients through varying care pathways.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Australia, the paradigm changed. Lockdown restrictions meant that people couldn’t easily access in-person care. This led to a plethora of new pathways being rapidly developed and utilised, including telehealth which provided care in-home and back in the community. Telehealth consults increased 10 fold during March 2020 of the pandemic¹.
The impact of the pandemic has also led consumers to focus more on their health. A recent study by US company Vida Health on 10,000 users found that since the outbreak of COVID-19, daily exercise had increased by 43%, sleep minutes increased by 20% and tracking of mood feelings around mental health increased 186%².
Adjusting to the “shift”
There has been a steady progression into community care for the sustained management of chronic and sub-acute care conditions due to the Health Care Homes Program, ‘Better at home’ and other initiatives and a development of in-home care accelerated due to the pandemic. Research findings demonstrate that patients have improved outcomes and recover at home with fewer complications³.
As a sector, we have found ourselves challenged by this shift with markedly different workflows, skill sets, systems required to de-centralise and staff requirements. The Department of Health – National Medical Workforce Strategy 2021-2031 has recognised this shift in staff and identified the need to build a flexible and responsive medical workforce. While this change is evident in many elements of the healthcare ecosystem it is certainly felt in the hospital sector, which has a deeply ingrained and exceptionally structured workflow designed around patients within their walls. However, the move in and out of these adds a layer of complexity to managing the patients health journey.
There are significant opportunities for our healthcare system to become even better as a result of this change. For instance, reducing the pressure on the central hospital infrastructure, allowing more efficient use of facilities and improving the client experience for chronic care. Most notably, we could create a work environment for many care workers which allows for a better work/life balance and travel requirement which may keep our incredibly valuable care providers in the system.
For those of us highly focused on the software space, supporting the sector to transform is a complex and crucial element of this de-centralisation journey but how can we help?
How we can help
We have a critical role to play in the resolution. Interoperability will enable the healthcare system to use the right tools for the circumstance but still have all the information they need irrespective of the system they are using in the moment. Imagine empowering and enabling a clinician to access data from multiple systems to provide a patient with the best healthcare outcomes. As a health technology provider, we have an opportunity to make this vision come to life; providing greater insight and knowledge to clinicians and patients and enabling further innovation into the Australian healthcare system. Interoperable systems will also help health organisations better manage risk with clear access to timely information for reporting and procedural audits.
The challenges and demands on our community health workers and clinicians has shifted and we need to support clinicians to continue to deliver the best patient outcomes.
At MasterCare we do this by listening to our customers. User groups and other forums allow us to get close to our customers and really understand their pain points and the challenges they face as they experience shifts in care pathways.
Through this work we have established there is now a greater need for equitable access to information in order to provide the same level of client experience from any location.
This shift ultimately led to the development of our Connect app. This solution enables clinicians to access a light weight version of our Electronic Medical Record solution when out on the road. It can even work offline so if a clinician is in an area with limited mobile signal they can still access and update the client record, all the data is stored and then uploaded to the system once a connection is established. All data is securely stored and encrypted.
¹Smith, A. (2020, June 5). “New data shows surge in telehealth consults amidst COVID-19 pandemic.” https://medicine.uq.edu.au/article/2020/06/new-data-shows-surge-telehealth-consults amidst-covid-19-pandemic.
²”COVID-19 Moves People to Focus on Their Personal Health.” (2021, August 11). Retrieved from https://blog.vida.com/ blog/2020/8/11/covid-19-movespeople-to-focus-on-their-personaI-health.
³”Better at Home Initiative” (2021, April 19). Retrieved from https://www.health. vie. gov.au/patient-care/better-at home-initiative.