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Tech + Health | Opportunities galore as health and tech collide

Published:Sunday | February 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMDoug Halsall
Doug Halsall
Medical records done on paper like this group left on a corridor at the University Hospital of the West Indies could soon be a thing of the past.
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Health is by far one of the most important assets we can have as individuals. If we do not have good health, we pretty much have nothing.

Mahatma Gandhi rightfully stated, "It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver."

The prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, and the effect they have had on the population not just in Jamaica but worldwide, signals to us that we need a revolution in health to arrest this problem.

Without a properly organised and implemented health-care delivery system, there can be no true sustainable development of our country and its people.

Enter technology.

Technology can be leveraged to improve almost every aspect of life. Jamaica is ripe and in the take-off stage to increase the use of technology to make health care more accessible, more efficient, more convenient and less expensive.

The opportunities are endless. In fact, using the right technology, Jamaica can now pave the way for a comprehensive National Health Insurance Scheme. We can have our own version 'Jamaica-care' to ensure that when it comes to health no one is left behind. We will talk some more about that at another time.

Countries such as India have long appreciated what technology can do for health care delivery. With much of its population living in rural communities, access to health-care services can be difficult.

 

Revolutionised health care

 

A 2010 report by Deloitte on Medical Technology in Indian states that "... easy accessibility of quality health care and affordability to the citizens at large are key concerns. Technology in the last two decades has revolutionised the way health care is delivered worldwide.

"It has greatly aided patients and providers alike by enhancing the quality of delivery, reduction in turnaround time of work flows and thus the overall cost, besides bringing in higher accountability into the system. Advancements in medical technology are playing a positive role in saving lives."

We can see already some important similarities to Jamaica. We have a rural population that does not readily have access to care, we have a poor segment of the population that oftentimes find it difficult to afford even the basic transportation to seek care.

We also have a community of persons who are disabled or who have special needs, who have difficulty accessing care. All of this can be addressed through the use of technology.

Already, and without even realising, we have been using technology to improve how persons access things like medication and care.

Take the NHF, for example, which has been using electronic services for their individual benefits programme for years. When patients go to a pharmacy and can swipe their cards to get a drug subsidy, it is the technology that has allowed for this seamless process.

When the pharmacist can go online and ensure that the patient's medication is in order and gets an alert when something is amiss - it is the technology that has facilitated that process.

We are moving even further beyond that and expanding to several other important services.

The University Hospital of the West Indies, for example, has begun to implement the Hospital Information Management System, which will see its entire operation, from admission to discharge, placed on an electronic platform.

Public-sector hospitals and health centres need to quickly follow suit to ensure an improved and more effective customer experience.

Imagine the day when you do not have to go to a public hospital and spend five hours; imagine having ready access to your health records and medical history; imagine having automated check-in.

Also, imagine being able to attend any facility across the island and your information is readily and easily accessible by your doctor. This is not a dream; it is happening and it can happen now.

There are so many more opportunities for technology to provide ease of use and access to health, which we will explore as we go along.

I leave you with this thought: "Without health, life is not life; it is only a state of languor and suffering - an image of death".

- Buddha

- Doug Halsall is the CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Feedback: editorial@gleanerjm.com