In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing challenges faced by GPs across the country, Irish med-tech Full Health Medical has developed a new clinically-driven patient empowerment solution to create a safer and more efficient manner for GPs to treat patients and to free up procedural and administration time by up to 75%.
‘Flow’ is software platform designed and driven by doctors to streamline patient care, freeing up time and resources, while facilitating preventative medicine.
Over recent weeks, the company’s technology has been repurposed to help specifically with the pandemic, incorporating a triage element that enables doctors and other healthcare professionals to complete Covid-19 screening before they proceed in assessing patients with other conditions.
“We’ve accelerated our own telehealth capabilities since the pandemic started, and now more than ever Full Health Medical’s comprehensive patient-centric tool kit can bring real and quantifiable benefits to both patients and doctors in primary care,” explained Dr Shortt, GP and co-founder of Full Health Medical, and who is currently working with Covid-19 patients in Mayo General Hospital.
“While GPs around the country have increased their use of video calls in order to service their patients, the volume of work involved and the challenges brought about by social distancing to every day practice has highlighted an obvious need for a more extensive patient communications tool that goes beyond just video calls.”
With the Irish health system overburdened and under resourced, accessing healthcare is difficult and understanding it is even more of a challenge, she agrees.
“Some of these challenges can be solved with efficient smart technology, and we believe that many of healthcare’s issues are rooted in communication, not medicine.
"Too often, patients leave the surgery with incomplete or poorly understood knowledge. With our system, each patient is given a unique login and password to the GP portal we provide for each practice when the report is ready, they are automatically mailed a link to access.”
The new software mitigates against the Covid-19 risk, she adds, making it much easier for people to understand the medical data presented which increases the likelihood of behavioural change to ultimately help avoid chronic diseases in the long run.
Supported by Enterprise Ireland, the Full Health Medical technology uses thousands of algorithms created by doctors and allows rapid assess of clinical data and to combine lifestyle behaviour with physical examination and laboratory results.
The product converts complex medical data into easy to understand green, amber and red indicators with a personalised action plan, which then enables streamlined medical service provision and smart tailored data analytics for both the doctor and the patient.
“Our Full Health Medical platform has been in regular use by the healthcare industry for over 8 years. ‘Flow’ analyses test results using a content library of thousands of possible outcomes and algorithms, overseen by a specialist team of cardiologists, endocrinologists and general physicians.
With this data, a personalised report is created based on the patient’s results, medical history, medications, diet, and lifestyle habits in a simplified, visual way.”
After the onset of Covid-19 in Ireland, radical changes had to be made by doctors to continue caring for their patients. “Navigating the healthcare system is complex at the best of times, so our goal with the ‘Flow’ software was to simplify patient pathways, using automated interpretation of data to communicate with patients and give doctors back their valuable time.”
The team estimate they can free up an average GPs daily workload by one hour - equivalent to adding 367 GPs to the current workforce in Ireland alone.
The idea for Full Health Medical originated from Dr Shortt’s experience dealing with patients as a dual qualified A&E Consultant and General Practitioner. She witnessed first-hand that a large majority of patient diagnoses could have been avoided with a greater awareness and knowledge about healthy living and the actions needed to promote a healthier lifestyle, and thus reduce the necessity to attend their GP and A&E.
“Telehealth has exploded with the advent of Covid-19, and when combined with Flow’s lab test analysis and patient communication pathways, doctors are already appreciating the benefits it brings to their surgeries.”
Once a GP signs up for a free trial, Full Health Medical set up their account, providing all the necessary training to bring their first patients through the system. Efficiency and simplicity are essential to the rollout of any new software for GPs, she adds.
As a result of the pandemic, patients’ expectations of how care is delivered have altered forever: “While online and video consultations are becoming the new normal, what’s more important is the ability of a system like Flow to provide a fully integrated patient communication platform.”
For the majority of older patients, this ‘new normal’ of hi-tech medicine has met with an enthusiastic response: “You’d be surprised by how many older patients are already tech-savvy. Many older people adapted quickly to the restrictions imposed by Covid-19, and have begun to use IT in a way they never had before – often using software like Skype or Zoom, to make contact with friends and family.”
She adds that while older patients traditionally tended to leave GP appointments with little understanding of what their next course of action was, but are now sent a personalised report with the GP’s assessment, test results, and follow up action: “It empowers patients to know and own their health, and older patients embrace the technology.”
As Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation in the healthcare industry, a huge focus on telehealth and remote monitoring capabilities is already on the horizon: “What is currently being described as ‘Amazon’s healthcare moment,’ will see a race for digital healthcare solutions. Innovative partnerships between the public, healthcare providers and insurers will continue to rise,” she says, with increased data gathering from medical devices and digital solutions using Artificial Intelligence to analyse and act upon any steps required to protect society from future outbreaks.
“We’re at make or break point with the ownership of medical data. Patients need support to own and control their own data, so they can share it securely and transparently with relevant parties. This was a critical element to include in the Flow software.”
Amongst the many social changes that will follow the pandemic, Dr Shortt sees a greater emphasis by the general population in maintaining better health and lifestyles. “Without a doubt, the stakes are higher when it comes to Covid-19.
Most hospitalised patients have at least one underlying medical condition, and chronic illness is now a life or death situation when it comes to contracting the virus. Unfortunately, in A&E I often treat patients that have come in ten years too late. Heart attacks and strokes can easily be avoided with early intervention, better tools, and patient education.”
In addition, she underlines the qualities of leadership shown, which have contributed significantly to Ireland’s hard won successes in battling the virus: “I am so grateful that we had leaders in government that, frankly, had the backbone to make the call to close down in time, and then the communication skills to explain that to over 5 million people, and get them all rowing together on this.
History may not be as kind to other countries who hesitated too long and didn’t prioritise lives over their economy.