Technology can provide better patient care for less money

However, there is an urgent need for a new breed of medical professional trained in digital health, say Dr Ciara FitzgeraldDr Ciara Heavin, and Dr Yvonne O’Connor.

Technology can provide better patient care for less money

Technology is everywhere we look, from people on their mobile devices to office staff working on computers.

But some of the most innovative trends are in the healthcare sector.

Digital health has grown significantly since 2011, with the global market expected to have increased exponentially in value by 2020.

The three main reasons are:

  • The need for disruptive solutions to challenge the spiralling cost of healthcare;
  • The growth in the health technology sector;
  • The increasing demand for personalised medicine driven by the increased availability of novel, real-time data about our own personal health and well-being.

Digital health technologies arepopular amongst patients, carers, and healthcare professionals. These technologies include electronic healthrecords (EHRs) for managing patient data, mobile health (mHealth) apps for understanding our fitness and nutrition and for monitoring blood sugarlevels, and electronic health (eHealth) solutions to support clinician decision-making.

These technologies operate across the healthcare ecosystem, servingdifferent types of engagement e.g. clinician-to-patient, clinician-to-clinician, patient-to-patient.

Technologies designed for health have become embedded in healthcare services, promoting the capture, storage, maintenance, and sharing of health data, providingsophisticated data analysis and decision-support to healthcare professionals.

To advance digital health strategies within the healthcare sector, there is a need for more integrated technologies, which better align with the delivery of healthcare services.

The financial pressures in healthcare, coupled with the growing expectations of stakeholders, pressurise those tasked with delivering new health technologies in their respective healthcare settings, i.e. primary health centres, hospitals, and the community.

More attention needs to be paid to understanding costs and how technologies may create value in the healthcare service.

The priority in implementing new technology is to improve the delivery of healthcare services and patient health outcomes.

Understanding the health-data need is paramount to tackling this challenge. Acquiring the latest technologies seems attractive to a healthcare service that is struggling with patient waiting times, access to beds, and high-profile cases that had detrimental patient outcomes.

However, the fundamental challenge is around data, data volume, data quality, data timeliness, data security, and data privacy. Finding the balance between data security and accessibility is a challenge to the digital transformation opportunity.

The provision of self-service technologies, and the increased flow of health data between stakeholders in the complex healthcare ecosystem, has heightened the vulnerability of breaches in data security.

This vulnerability was evident in the recent, global Ransomware virus, which caused havoc in the Irish and UK healthcare systems. That being said, empowering patients and others tocollect, analyse, transfer and create new knowledge around individual and population health data is a significant opportunity.

This digital health journey is well underway. Healthcare organisations, such as hospitals, need to pursue adigital health strategy that enables them to select, design, and implement systems that fulfil well-defined objectives related to improved patient outcomes and better-quality patient care.

There is an urgent need to create a new breed of professional in the health/healthcare domain who is appropriately skilled to engage in digital health.

To address this gap, a new executive education programme, MSc Digital Health, in University College Cork, is commencing this month.

This programme combines teaching and research from Cork University Business School’s business information systems, in collaboration with UCC’s School of Medicine and Health, providing students with the opportunity to develop sought-after skills.

The MSc in digital health will provide business and health/healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills to plan, design, implement and manage leading-edge health technology, while remaining cognisant of the ethical,security, and data-protection implications.

The course provides participants with a critical understanding of how technologiescreate efficiencies in health/healthcare settings and improve patient care and patient health outcomes.

This is a new programme, with internationally recognised faculty, at the forefront of digital health/healthinformation systems research.

Students will study modules on the fundamentals of digital health; decision support and data analytics for health; healthcare economics; healthcareinformation systems; ethical andevidence-based health data; clinical trials and data-management.

Students will act as a business consultant, mentored by industry experts, to create an innovative health-information systems solution or digital health-focused dissertation, addressing a real business need or opportunity in a setting of their choice.

Expert guest speakers from business and health/clinical settings contribute to the syllabus and students will benefit from strong healthcare links with both internal and external partners.

To learn more about the MSc Digital Health, contact one of the programmedirectors at Dr Ciara Fitzgerald, Dr CiaraHeavin, and Dr Yvonne O’Connor(Business Information Systems, UCC)

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