How tech can put patients back in the driver seat of their healthcare

In Canada, receiving public healthcare often feels like getting the cold shoulder, with the unspoken policy of “you get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit”. This could be partially due to the fact that there are only 2.7 practicing physicians per 1,000 population. When patients bring themselves into private care, often the majority of the issues that they have are coming from the public healthcare sphere. Patients are drastically under-informed of their own health and often don’t know when their caregiver will show up, who it will be as it is different every time, or what this care will look like.

Canadian healthcare seems to work in silos, with a severe disparity in communication between the different providers that make up the system. Hospitals don’t share with the physical therapists, who don’t share with physiology, who don’t share with occupational therapy, who don’t share with long-term care – you get the picture. This detrimental cycle can be brought to a halt with the proper and secure application of technology into the healthcare system. 

Medical advancement through blockchain

The healthcare industry has a constantly growing base of medical data. Every visit, test, treatment, and medication creates even more data that makes up medical records. The proper management and safe retrieval of this massive amount of personal health data is a crucial challenge for the industry, because the data is oftentimes as that data is oftentimes at risk of breaches and hacking.

From 2009 to 2017, over 176 million data breaches occurred with respect to healthcare records. Strewn out across multiple systems with varied rules and regulations because of it’s sensitive nature, this health data is challenging to understand, use, share, and keep secure. Inaccessibility to medical records alongside the lack of comprehensive technology for health data makes requesting, sending, receiving, and compiling patient data a time-consuming process that often requires excessive resources.

Blockchain is a system of recording information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system. A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain. This technology can streamline health data into a reliable, secure, and centralized place.​ 

Blockchain as applied to healthcare can create a single system for stored health records that can securely and rapidly be retrieved by authorized users. This makes for a ubiquitous, secure network infrastructure that updates as soon as new information comes in – ensuring that both patients and providers are given the most accurate data. One example of blockchain technology at work is a Canadian company called ROBOMED, which helps to accelerate care by automating administrative processes and employing smart contracts between patients and doctors. With mobile and remote health more important today than ever before, a modern adaptation of the system is imperative.

Although there is much uneasiness for providers when it comes to applying technology into their practice, when done right, it can only help to improve care. Blockchain can help to avoid miscommunication between different healthcare professionals involved in caring for the same patient through a single system of records. It can deliver a consistent representation of authorization, share info securely, all without duplication of information. With Blockchain, mistakes can be prevented and faster diagnoses can be made, thereby personalizing and prioritizing each patient’s care. 

Healthcare communities through internet forums

We go online for the answers to all sorts of questions that come up in daily life, including healthcare matters. Web MD is probably the most prominent example of this – where if there is ever any question of what is going on with one’s body, one can simply ask almighty Google. While this has its repercussions, it’s proved beneficial for many individuals seeking initial insights around their health. Online forums have served as a means to connect medical communities, level the playing field with big corporation healthcare, and divulge the disparities that exist between private and public health.

Online community forums have come together as a means of relativity between persons in similar medical situations. Whether that is people with shared conditions or symptoms from an injury or disease, frustrations within the system, or those in need of medical help in a social context – forums can connect individuals in their healthcare. This has manifested many communities, not bound by geographical distance, that can help patients find others who can empathize and possibly help.

Online health forums can provide two key types of support to the patient: informational and emotional, which can be especially important for those suffering from daily and long term illnesses such as cancer or diabetes.

Forums have also opened a new realm of accountability for the healthcare industry. Nowadays, everyone is a reporter and online reviews impact both providers and the health business entities they work for. RateMDs, Healthgrades, and even Yelp can play a significant role on the decisions patients make when choosing their provider. Projected and publicized information in forums places system checks in line so that capitalism doesn’t rule over the care of patients. 

Finally, forums can be a platform to which providers outreach for help when needed in a time of overworked and overwhelmed staff. With the pandemic, many hospitals and health care businesses are scrambling to stay on top of the numbers of patients they are seeing. Online forums can serve as a community helpline sharing helpful information across medical departments, a way to communicate volunteer opportunities to provide assistance, and finally as a way to stay up to date on the constantly evolving information that comes in and out of the medical field.

Dashboards for patients, truly putting them at the center of their care 

One approachable way to implement technology into healthcare is by creating a synchronized and centralized software dashboard. Even back in 2015, a Black Book poll of more than 1500 healthcare stakeholders found that 83 per cent of hospitals expected their CEOs, CFOs, CNOs, and CMOs to have successful health IT implementations on their resume.

An online HealthTech platform allows organizations to democratize access to actionable insights by driving information through the entire enterprise. This creates value-based care, enabling medical professionals to access patient statistics in real-time and thereby working to increase care performance and patient satisfaction. Creating a symbiotic and reliable place for health information and care details also allows patients to truly be at the center of their medical care.

Giving the patients the ability to see schedules, notes from appointments, and see when their caregiver was there up to the very minute gives them the ability to participate in and understand what is happening to their own body. Oftentimes hospitals, insurance companies, and specialty care providers engage in excessive back and forth in order to compile all of the data for just one treatment of one patient. By having a landing pad to which all of that information can be consolidated, the industry can achieve efficiency of communication between providers and a transparent place for patients to take agency over their healthcare. Utilizing this healthcare tool opens up connection for collaboration while also maintaining privacy and security needed for sensitive medical data.

Where technology and humanity come hand and hand in healthcare

There isn’t one cure-all script to treat varying health challenges, because ultimately, an individual’s health is as unique as they are. It is important that healthcare in Canada sees every ecosystem within the medical industry as distinct, with its own needs. At the same time, the healthcare industry must centralize these varying health extensions through the power of technology and work to unify patient treatment and care.

Armed with a more open line of communication with their treating providers and access to secure information, patients can provide insight with a connected dialogue about their health. This flips the script and puts the patient back into the driver seat of their healthcare. 

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Bradley Bezan
Bradley Bezan
Bradley is the founder and CEO of Spark Lifecare, a company often described as the e-harmony of home healthcare services and the fastest growing healthcare company in Canada. He is a venture philanthropist, world’s top 100 healthcare leaders award winner and self described misfit CEO

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