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Nov 11, 2017
by Sciana
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The New World of Data - Empowering the Patient

Towards the end of the inaugural meeting of Sciana: The Health Leaders Network, the inclusion
of artificial intelligence and robotics in health care was a topic feverishly discussed by members. This conversation on the role of technology spread into the second meeting as 17 experts explored
the new influx of data, available to both health care professionals and patients.

The transfer of knowledge in biomedicine used to be linear. Health care professionals had greater access to medical knowledge, which they were mostly responsible for distributing to patients who weren’t in the know. As leading patient activist Sara Riggare remarked, “The world doesn’t look like this anymore.”

Riggare, who was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, informed Sciana members how she practiced self-tracking to help manage her medications. She and others have used “infomedicine” to improve their lives. Patients want to be outside health care because “that’s where life is.” Members heard how Riggare used a smartphone app each day to register her finger function. She put this data with the timings for her medications in a graph and was able to optimise the effect of her medication.

As well as empowering individuals, new technology can empower entire communities. Members were introduced to several devices by Pink Rickshaw Design, which can be used to improve health care in rural areas in India.

These devices included an Inspiration Book, a hybrid digital-physical device designed to develop health communication by linking aspects of daily life to good health care. Another product, known as the Magic Mirror, was a mirror which could display the weather, a medicine schedule, the time, and has voice recognition enabled. Users can ask for information about symptoms and medicines and be responsible for their health care.

Empowering patients doesn’t have to mean dis-empowering others. Organisations like Babylon Health, which launched in Ireland and operates in the United Kingdom, aims to put an accessible and affordable health service in the hands of everyone. Earlier this month, Babylon Health announced it had partnered with NHS GPs in London to launch GP at Hand, a smartphone app that enables GPs to serve their patients anytime, anywhere.

The theme of looking towards the future continued throughout the day’s discussions. Before lunch, members considered several case studies including the development of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme and a new curriculum model for nursing in Germany.

A keynote presentation in the afternoon explored whether today’s health care infrastructures remained in an outdated paradigm.

Significant economic shifts are occurring in the economics of health care. The existing infrastructures in countries around the world must get to grips with aging populations. Creating more hospital beds, however, is not a feasible solution.

In addition to this challenge, patients have more access to their physicians than ever before. The speaker who gave the presentation suggested email and virtual care was not only something the patient expected nowadays, it was something some patients demanded.

He indicated medical models were moving at a slower rate than the consumer market and suggested people, process and technology all have to move together.

Members heard developing an e-triage capability is one example of where the market is going. The speaker said the algorithms that sit within any e-triage system have to be built to match the operational responses of the environment it’s been built for. If that doesn’t happen, patients may as well go back to “Dr. Google.”

People will move away from something not meeting their needs, the speaker warned. Trusts and clinics have to consider how they can extend their outreach and develop their own connections with patients.
The day concluded with conversations between members about project ideas, which will be further developed throughout the remainder of the program. 

Patient activist Sara Riggare speaks to members of the 2017 Sciana group