At a national and personal level, ehealth technologies are changing the way we prevent and treat illness. Cloud-based technologies are estimated to make the biggest impact in this area, because the technology is mobile, real-time and agile. These attributes are particularly important in tackling the issues Australia is facing when it comes to providing access to healthcare services:
- The distance involved in obtaining specialist treatment
- The ageing population
- The monitoring and prevention of conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes
Due to the data these technologies gather, cloud-based technology will also be crucial in detecting outbreaks and patterns of illnesses in various demographics, leading to early intervention in both cases. Not only is this a cost-saving exercise, but if these types of technology are widely adopted, then they have the potential to save thousands of lives.
Today, we’re looking at some of the emerging cloud technologies that could change the way we approach healthcare.
Distance is a real problem for Australians seeking treatment. According to a 2014 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, regional Australians tend to have:
- Shorter lives
- Higher rates of disease
- Are more susceptible to untreated mental illness
- Are involved in more occupational hazards than their urban counterparts.
The report also looks at ‘outer regional’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and found that the death rate is much higher, than for non-indigenous Australians. The report found that: ‘Indigenous Australians were 5 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to die from endocrine, nutritional and metabolic conditions (such as diabetes), and 3 times as likely to die of digestive conditions’.
The state of healthcare in these areas, and amongst our indigenous population is grave. However, the introduction of cloud technology could tackle the problems of distance. Take teleconferencing for example. A service that used to require prohibitively expensive specialised equipment, could now simply be downloaded onto a mobile device, sparing patients the long trip to a health practitioner. This method is much quicker, much cheaper and can allow a specialist to immediately detect if something is amiss, which allows for rapid, life-saving outcomes.
The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine have shot a video to show how easily the teleconference works in practice:
Teleconferencing in such an agile way, not only provides a better standard of care for the patient, but it saves valuable time for the carers, the GPs, the nurses and the specialists.
But distance in this context doesn’t just include regional Australians. As we start to face the reality of the ageing crisis, distance can also mean the distance of the patient from their loved ones. Like Australia, Singapore is also facing an ageing population.
The Singaporean government has decided to tackle this crisis by allotting SGD $250 million on a widespread eHealth initiative. This money will be spent on fitness trackers, smart appliances that can monitor everything from heart rate, stress levels, blood pressure, to fall detection. Family members can also have access to this information, so if Dad says he’s fine, (but his blood pressure is saying something else) there can be an honest discussion about the course of action that needs to be taken.
These types of apps not only empower citizens to take charge of their health, (which helps in the prevention of chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes) but they can provide this data to their practitioner who can make a more informed decision about their treatment.
In a broader sense, the data that cloud technologies produce and share can help to shape policy and health initiatives. As data analytics become more sophisticated and accessible, practitioners and government agencies will be able to leverage data to gain deep insights into genetic diseases, and community health patterns. It can also establish relationships between treatments and beneficial, unforeseen effects. For example, US pharmacologists have discovered that an anti-depressant could have uses in treating lung cancer.
In fact, it is hoped that data may unlock the cure for cancer. At present, it is estimated that in the US 96% of potentially available data on patients with cancer is not yet analysed, so the potential for discovery is significant.
Data can also create a rich picture of a patient, so that a physician attending them immediately has a complete view of their history, their allergies and their lifestyle and can diagnose in a holistic (and accurate) way. This becomes especially important in instances where the patient is unable to give information, or may not know to give that one especially telling piece of information. Having the whole picture won’t just improve the quality of treatment for patients, it could potentially save many lives.
More agile, cost-effective holistic healthcare
Cloud technology is the key to unlocking the traditional problems that will challenge the Australian healthcare system. Ensuring a nationwide adoption of this technology by both patients and practitioners can improve patient outcomes, provide a higher level of service and save state and federal departments lots of money.
If you’d like to know more about how cloud technologies will impact the healthcare industry, then you should attend the Digital Health Conference 2017.