By World Healthcare Journal-
WHJ’s Fabian Sutch-Daggett reports on the Clyde & Co/WHJ debate on the future of digital healthcare.
At the beginning of May, Clyde & Co and the World Healthcare Journal hosted a thought-provoking and insightful debate between leaders in the digital health sector. The Global Digital Healthcare Revolution was chaired by the Publishing Director of World Healthcare Journal, Steve Gardner, and the opening keynote speech was provided by Noel Gordon, the chairman of NHS Digital and Healthcare UK.
With more than 100 attendees, the event provided stimulating conversation around the integration of digital health into global, national and local health markets, from the lowest-income to the most developed. The panel also shared its thoughts on the development of digital in ensuring better patient care at all stages of interaction - and digital healthcare’s vital role in combating some of the major issues it faces such as workforce, public health, training, research, and education. As many of these issues have no cookie-cutter fix, digital solutions are an essential piece of the puzzle which must be better integrated to ensure that we can begin to make steps in healing the global healthcare system.
The panel itself was comprised of a diverse number of leaders involved in the digital sector. Niti Pall, Medical Director of KPMG shared her first-hand experience of digital solutions from across the globe, explaining how new pre-primary healthcare solutions in Bangladesh, India and beyond, are revolutionising doctor-patient interactions and treatment. Mindy Daeschner, CCO of DoctorLink shared her experiences in developing digital health applications, and emphasised the importance of digital front door solutions in easing the strain on primary care providers, but also ensuring that talented health workers are able to work to the top of their licence.
“What we’re looking at is simplifying access. Many problems we see aren’t just specific to the UK, they’re global,” she said. “We’re trying to create and find the systems that really work, which are really good, that can enable patients to find the right care at the right time. ”
But digital health isn’t just about what we as consumers and patients see on the primary side of healthcare. Digital capability also has huge applications in laboratory work and developing research – helping those pushing the boundaries of human knowledge to solve the problems of tomorrow before we even realise the threat. Speaking on the research benefits of digital health was Hassan Chaudhury, Head of Digital Health at D.I.T.
“I feel very privileged to see so many brilliant innovations from all these different teams, companies and nations, solving issues that most people aren’t even aware of,” he said. “But much of this work can be performed by robotics, or AI (Artificial Intelligence). Digital has great potential to release highly skilled people from mundane tasks so they can focus on the real issues. ”
Providing engaging legal discussion surrounding digital healthcare was Clyde & Co’s Claire Petts, explaining the implications of new data protection regulation and legislation, such as the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). New laws surrounding privacy and data protection caused concern and upheaval in every working environment, and she feels it is vital that people understand the GDPR and other data protection regulations – not just to ensure that they don’t breach them – but also so that the laws don't impede innovation.
“GDPR shouldn’t be a bar to digital innovation. There’s a real lack of understanding around GDPR. Some people don’t think it’s an issue, and some people see these huge headlines and get so panicked by it that they take GDPR measures to the extreme. It’s highly technical and it stops innovation – not just within healthcare,” she said.
Mindy Daeschner also addressed the delicate balancing act between privacy and data protection. “There’s a healthy balance between securing your data and being able to give your data to use its benefits. I’ve seen for myself that data protection can stop innovation in healthcare. ”
Noel Gordon spoke about the challenges of implementing new digital solutions into the NHS, particularly around solutions while simultaneously trying to restructure the gigantic organisation that is the NHS. “We have to ensure that all dimensions of our NHS are integrated. Digital health can’t sit in isolation; it has to be part the transformation of the NHS as a whole. ”
It was agreed that digital solutions within healthcare are very different from solutions within other major industries, such as banking, transport, and retail. “These organisations can design their digital solutions for the middle of the bell curve. The NHS can’t do that - we have a statutory obligation to make digital creations, such as the NHS, accessible to everyone,” observed Noel.
The discussion finished by looking at the main barrier to development within digital healthcare: investment and funding. Who will pay for these new digital solutions, particularly regarding the exportation of digital services in the global market? Access to digital services is relatively easier in developed countries, where people have much easier access to the 4G (possibly soon to be 5G) networks.
“A single payor market doesn’t exist everywhere,” said Niti Pall. “Many countries without single payor systems are however starting to see universal healthcare as a sustainable development goal. So, as a company, we’re looking at how we can stop payors and partners from just doing their usual procurement of work and distribution, and encourage them to innovate, and enter the market themselves. ”
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