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What the future of patient care means for health tech leadership

By Mike Drew and Chris Hamilton, Odgers Berndtson

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Leadership

Odgers Berndtson’s Mike Drew and Chris Hamilton look at aspects of digital healthcare and explain what they mean for health tech leadership

A virtual appointment in February 2020 would have seemed odd. Fast forward six months, shortly after the first wave of COVID-19, and it is standard practice.

Now, in 2022, some of us are asking ourselves why we ever thought it was a good idea for sick people to sit in waiting rooms and share their illnesses with one another.

The pandemic fast-tracked virtual healthcare but that was merely the tip of the iceberg.

The marriage of technology and patient care is evolving rapidly and those leaders who know how to capture it will flourish.

But all of this has major implications for patient care and patient engagement, particularly at a time when many communities might be struggling to access services.

We’ve identified four areas where technology and patient care are gaining pace and explain what this means for healthcare leadership.

Domiciliary care 

IoT sensors mean caregivers can monitor patient health and progress in their own homes. This frees up home carers and nurses, enabling the redistribution of personnel to provide more care to more people.

It also has the potential to relieve pressure on hospital waiting times.

Monitoring patients in their homes means doctors can provide remote medical analysis rather than the patient requiring an in-person GP appointment.

Combined with wireless technology, particularly 5g, in-home sensors can be connected to ambulances.

First responders could be signalled to an emergency without being called, while also receiving real-time information on the patient’s health.

Patients with disabilities or the elderly are likely to see great benefits from this technology. It will also be a boon for those in rural areas.

Chronic conditions  

Already, remote sensors can monitor heart rate, respiratory rate, SpO2 and blood pressure, all of which are closely associated with chronic conditions.

Tracking these biomedical signals and health parameters through wearable devices and smartphone will enable doctors to monitor patients with chronic conditions in real-time.

Not only will doctors be able to predict and track chronic health conditions but they will also be able to mitigate deterioration through timely analysis.

Speed of care and greater access to care providers will be a collateral boon here.

For patients suffering from chronic conditions – particularly those with chronic pain – ‘feeling looked after’ is a critical aspect of treatment.

Constant monitoring could provide the perception of having a health professional close at hand, and therefore alleviate symptoms.

Mental health care 

Millions of people already take their mental health into their own hands through the use of meditation apps and software.

The mindfulness app market is valued at $US1.1 billion with an expected growth trajectory of $US6.8 billion by 2030.

Mental health care and technology is already big business but accessing meditation techniques through a smartphone app is just a glimpse of how the industry will evolve.

For example, Accenture research recently found the use of virtual delivery channels could expand treatment to 53 million Americans suffering from mental health issues.

This will enable people to overcome geographical limitations and community stigma by accessing remote mental health support from a laptop or smartphone.

Likewise, almost all social-care providers will have online mental health support for young people and their families.

Social media will play a significant role. Patients who link their social media sites with their healthcare provider will see their mental health monitored in real time.

AI will be able to analyse language patterns and images in posts to identify and predict mental health conditions, at the same time as analysing broader mental health trends.

Patient data and treatments 

Increasing use of medical sensors, faster acquisition of patient health information, and cross sector collaboration will (and already is) giving rise to the use of varied data sets in clinical trials.

Real-time information from IoT patient devices will combine with data from laboratory tests and electronic health records to enhance patient care.

Cross sector collaboration, such as app developers working with social services to provide community mental health, will result in more data collection which will then inform treatments.

Similarly, user interfaces and chatbots will aggregate patient conversations, providing clinicians with a clearer picture of what patients want and need in the patient care journey.

Importantly, data sharing across the ecosystem will give rise to more integrated healthcare. Accenture and Roche are currently in a multi-year partnership to develop a new diabetes treatment.

Centred around a data-driven platform deployed in multiple countries, Roche can offer its diabetes services to hospitals around the world while integrating with different retail partners in each country.

Patient care technology and healthcare leadership 

The pandemic showed, in no uncertain terms, that a multi-sector, multi-organisation approach is the future of healthcare.

Technology and patient care exist as a microcosm of this concept. Fewer and fewer health tech solutions are developed in isolation.

Partnerships between major pharmaceutical players and start-ups is almost standard practice.

And overlap of the private and public health sectors has created a healthcare ecosystem aimed at accelerating treatments and access to care.

As a result, we’re starting to see defining behavioural traits and skillsets emerge.

Those who embrace partnerships, view collaboration as a commercial advantage, have a system-wide vision, and hold to the idea of ‘winning together’ will rise to the top.

They are commercially minded, highly entrepreneurial, and seek out innovation, while their notion of patient care is often indistinct from customer experience.

As technology becomes increasingly integral to patient care we believe these leadership qualities will be ‘must haves’ for all healthcare organisations in the near future.

They are also among the qualities we’ll be looking out for in the upcoming Health Tech Leader of the Year award.

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