Healthcare is leading the pack in some areas of technological innovation – but elsewhere it’s lagging behind in it’s journey to digital.
Health and care services are poised for a ‘real shift’ in the next few years as they embrace technology to cope with increasing demand. George Crooks, Chief Executive of the Digital Health & Care Institute said change will happen in the next three to five years, with the realisation that service delivery models cannot cope with pressures, such as an ageing population and a rise in long-term conditions. He will be addressing FutureScot’s Digital Health & Care conference in September, which is due to focus on a new era of healthcare in Scotland. In an age where many people are now considered ‘digital natives’, Professor Crooks said healthcare was ahead of other sectors in terms of adopting technology in some areas but needed to catch up elsewhere. He said: “It’s interesting to reflect that in some areas, healthcare is at the cutting edge of technology innovation – for example in gene sequencing and the development of targeted cancer therapies. “However, when it comes to CARE high-volume citizen-facing services, the same cannot be said.” But he added: “We are beginning to realise that understanding more about a person’s lived experience and knowing what is truly important to them can improve clinical decision making and allow people to more actively participate in the delivery of health and care services. “The world is slowly changing and I expect that over the next three to five years, there will be a real shift, as we realise current service delivery models cannot cope with the increasing demands being placed on them due to the challenges of ageing and the rise in long term conditions.” His session at the conference will focus on community-based care models. He believes moving care from hospitals to the community will increasingly become the norm over the coming years – where individuals and their families have more control over their services – but in an environment where adverse signs or symptoms can be detected early. DHI’s ‘Care 4.0’ aims to better understand how co-managed care models can be made more scalable and sustainable. A collaboration with the Scottish Government, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) and ScotlandIS, it focuses on a more distributed community-based model, combining technologies such as next-generation connectivity, the internet of things (IoT) and AI. “These solutions are available today and are supporting motivated individuals to make better-informed heath and lifestyle choices,” he said. “These will become more accessible, more personalised and as we understand the possibilities better, will become integrated into conventional health and care delivery models.” The coronavirus has already seen technology playing a bigger role in the health of individuals and communities – whether that’s events held remotely to prevent the spread of viruses, or improved remote consultations by GPs to people who are at home elf-isolating’. Professor Crooks said artificial intelligence (AI) and technology had a large role to play. “This is not simply a futuristic ideal,” he said. “However, we need to look beyond what the technology can do and look at the existing concerns people have, which create barriers to adoption and scaling. “One key area is trust. For people to be comfortable with concepts such as AI they have to understand what it can and cannot do and how it is proposed to be used, monitored and acted upon. This is why academics in Scotland are looking at ‘explainable AI’ and ‘trustworthy AI’ as concepts that need to be factored into our thinking and actioned.” Digital Health & Care 2020 will be held on 23 September at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh, after being postponed from its April date due to coronavirus. The conference will include sessions on providing leadership in digital transformation, innovation and service design. Other topics will include ‘innovating with public health data’, the practical considerations in implementing AI and lessons which can be learned from designing health.