Tue | Dec 11, 2018

Health + Tech | New eCare could be Jamaica's health game changer

Published:Sunday | July 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMDoug Halsall

It is no secret that I have been a long-time advocate of healthcare digitisation, recognising how much we could improve the health of our population if we adopted technology.

This was what led me to invest in a company in India called Suvarna Technosoft, which provides health information management systems software to nearly 200 hospitals and from which we were able to begin digitising the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).

I was elated to hear of the latest Government initiative to use technology to improve community health. The Government recently announced the launch of a pilot initiative called eCare to improve community access to healthcare services.

ECare is primarily to allow persons to be able to interact through an application with a doctor for consultation advice but does several other commendable things:

- Focus on persons with chronic non-communicable diseases such as diabetes (it is being implemented in collaboration with the Diabetes Association of Jamaica).

- Allow persons to access a medical professional in the public sector without leaving home.

- Allow the health practitioner to send e-prescriptions.

This is a great start and can only get better if the Government develops on it and puts other digitised systems in place to complement it. Imagine the tremendous value that could be added if hospitals and health centres are digitised as well.

 

ELECTRONIC CONSULTATIONS

 

Instead of patients just being able to seek advice from their doctor, they could access an entire gamut of healthcare services, and could electronically do an entire consultation, follow-up and home care if required.

The links with an app and a digitised facility can enhance the features of healthcare solutions. This approach would revolutionise the way people traditionally seek healthcare, leading to more efficiency, less waiting time, less money spent to access medical care, easier and more immediate access to a doctor, more efficient use of human resources, and the list goes on.

Persons would be able to do an entire doctor's visit from the comfort of their living room, or wherever they have Internet access, receive prescriptions electronically, pick up orders placed online or have them delivered where the service is offered.

Quick access to electronic medical records would allow the doctor to view patient medical history, look at present and past diagnostics through the radiology component, check prescription history and allergies through the pharmacy module, among other things.

With an app like eCare linked to a fully digitised health facility, there are countless value-added services that one could obtain that would lead to many benefits.

For example, for a long time the public health sector has been faced with a shortage of doctors to serve communities across the island. The app, along with digitised facilities, could allow doctors to stay at a hospital or health centre where they could see patients while still accommodating those underserved communities.

This would be good, particularly for persons with mobility problems.

 

REMOTE-CARE MANAGEMENT TOOLS

 

There are other options, too. If eCare is integrated with remote-care management tools, which are also integrated into a hospital's system, or health centre, then persons with non-communicable diseases, and other illnesses, as well as those requiring outpatient type supervision, could be better monitored by themselves and their physician or nurse without having to go in to the medical facility.

Remote-care management tools allow for checking of a number of health indices, including electrocardiogram, pulse rate, systolic blood pressure, blood oxygenation, heart rate variability, respiration and temperature. It can also do forecasting, allowing for intervention where issues are probable but have not yet presented.

There is tremendous potential to develop the healthcare ecosystem to complement eCare.

This is the reason we invested in Suvarna. This affords us the technical resources to do exactly this for Jamaica simultaneously with India.

Aspects of the ecosystem for telemedicine are already available locally, and with UHWI and willing members of the medical fraternity, we are conducting controlled field testing. The rest of 2018 and 2019 should prove extremely interesting. More anon.

The eCare pilot will have a phased introduction at select health centres with 5,000 persons to be selected to be part of the pilot.

- Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Feedback: Doug.halsall@gmail.com.