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Disruptor DNA: SmartHealth’s two strand Q&A > Sonia Neary CEO, Wellola

by | Oct 18, 2022

What rule would you break to deliver healthcare value?

That patient data should travel and not the patient, where possible. Currently patient data is siloed in many systems (paper or digital) within the boundaries of, for example, a hospital’s walls. Lab reports, x-ray results, medical notes, all useful information, some of which, the patient would benefit from having access to is kept out of their line of sight. Equally, the patient or citizen is often out in the community, with rich information their clinician would benefit having access to – the patient’s physical and mental symptoms, their objective metrics.

But these data sets (that of the clinical team and patient) are currently completely disconnected. We rely on brief, sporadic calls, letters and in-person meetings as a means to share data. This outdated way of sharing medical information feeds into an acute, reactive, ‘well’ and ‘unwell’ care model, rather than one where patients are given the tools to be informed and support themselves, to work proactively, preventatively and collaboratively with care providers.

What if we could find better ways to securely share information, not only back and forth from patient to care provider, but between providers? With a more sophisticated, joined-up and digitally savvy approach there is potential to make better use of resources, achieving better health outcomes.

What is the biggest challenge to innovation?

The key questions are what is the greatest challenge to maintaining momentum in health innovation and if we are to maintain momentum, how do we make sure we leave no one behind? As a digital health advocate, one key challenge I see is how to ensure we maintain equity and ease of access to healthcare whilst offering digital care pathways and digitising business processes? How do we maintain security whilst facilitating accessibility for service users. How do we offer reassurance and trust as technology providers?

Much of the answer to this lies in two fundamental pillars – collaboration and standardisation. Collaboration with patients and care providers at the design stage of new products brought to market – hardware and software alike – should be required and evidenced by providers. We need to protect our most vulnerable and ensure the less-able bodied or technically savvy individual is given equal opportunities to interact  with new solutions in ways that meet their needs. Ensuring standards are called out to encourage innovators to prioritise accessibility in design such that we are not excluding those that need access the most is crucial to an inclusive healthcare ecosystem.

Other standards, for example, in terms of interoperability as a given and standardising how technologies speak with one another (e.g. HL7/ Fast Health Interoperability Resources Application Interfaces) or certifications that ensure data is handled in a particular way, being expected and met can by suppliers reduce risks associated with data-sharing between clinical systems. If we can lay the right foundations, we are giving our healthcare ecosystems the best opportunity to scale and grow.

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