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Tech-savvy patients drive demand for electronic health systems
Published on 29 Mar 2012
Patient expectations and the demand for quicker service will drive a change towards eHealth programmes across the NHS and private-care sectors, according to a report published by KPMG and Manchester Business School.
Called “Accelerating Innovation: the power of the crowd”, the report suggests that moves toward eHealth are being driven by the Baby Boomer generation, fuelled by their experiences and comfort as online consumers. However it also goes on to reveal that professional attitudes and funding are the biggest blocks to progress.
According to the data:
· 61 percent claim eHealth will come about because of patient expectation, with 58 percent also suggesting demands for greater efficiency will lead to a technologically-driven health service
· 29 percent argue that safety concerns and quality of care will ensure that eHealth programmes redefine how we care for patients
· 26 percent suggest that a shortage of staff entering the profession will also be behind greater reliance on technology.
According to Andrew Hine, KPMG’s head of public healthcare, the case for eHealth has never been more compelling. He says: “For too long eHealth strategies have focused on ‘pushing’ people to accept promises of high level benefits. Yet surely when the story of one social network has already been made into an Oscar-nominated film we can conclude that technology is an embedded, normal part of our lives. In an age where communication exists in the shape of 500 million tweets per day, it is no longer a leap of faith to think that eHealth is more than just an IT solution, but a mainstream part of daily life.”
eHealth in Action
Citing early eHealth projects, the report focuses on examples from across the globe*. One notable success is the UK Department of Health telecare programme involving 6,000 patients across 3 locations. Enabling patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart conditions, to self-monitor and report their results, it led to a 15 percent reduction in A&E visits, 14 percent reduction in bed days and 45 percent reduction in mortality rates.
Another example, from Denmark, is the creation of a public web-based portal allowing patients to access their records, book appointments and order medication over a secure network. The programme has resulted in significant financial savings and enabled the government to merge 15 counties into 5 distinct regions without disrupting health provision.
Barriers to progress
However, the report indicates that whilst some attempts to drive eHealth have been successful, many have lost momentum after the pilot phase. According to the data, the top three barriers to eHealth implementation are money (34 percent), attitudes amongst medical professionals (29 percent) and poor change management (21 percent).
Some within the profession go on to suggest that they have ‘technology anxiety’ with 63 percent arguing there is a need to build confidence in eHealth applications and 29 percent suggesting data security is an issue. It is also clear that the healthcare profession needs to hear more about the benefits that eHealth can bring, with 21 percent saying there is currently a failure to showcase success and 47 percent claiming that consumers are the ones driving the eHealth revolution.
Andrew Hine adds: “For eHealth to deliver on its promises, clinicians will have to be brought on board – either willingly or in response to consumer demand. The simple fact is that today’s smartphone user is tomorrow’s patient and, tech savvy clinicians need to be seen not as a force to be won-over, but as a catalyst for change.”
Strategy for change
To create real change in the healthcare system, the KPMG/ Manchester Business School report cites three conditions essential for success:
· Crowd accelerated innovation: large numbers of early participants are needed to trigger widespread acceptance and create economies of scale [a concept that is recognisable in other large scale projects such as the Human Genome Project or Wikipedia]
· Collaborative alignment: varied interests of different players in the healthcare system need to be better aligned to reduce barriers to innovation
· Creative dislocation: finally, new ways of working must replace the old, rather than remaining a costly ‘add-on’. [This is required for long term, industry-wide change such as the music industry has seen in the last 20 years]
The 38-page report will be available at www.kpmg.com/ehealth.
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