Tuesday, 07 April 2020 13:11

COVID-19: Healthcare system needs new technologies to meet ‘challenges’, says ATSE Featured

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Australia’s healthcare system must quickly incorporate technologies including remote consulting, wearable monitors and full digitisation if it is to meet the challenges of the coming decade, an investigation by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) has found.

“These are new health technologies that are desperately needed as the world responds to the coronavirus pandemic,” says ATSE, adding that “such innovations could transform health delivery”.

“Even before the coronavirus pandemic, our year-long examination of the health system identified the changes needed to meet rising demands, particularly in regard to chronic and age-related diseases,” said ATSE President, Professor Hugh Bradlow FTSE.

Professor Bradlow says the response to coronavirus could have been different if the disease had emerged after all four recommendations had been fully implemented.

“In a fully digitised healthcare system, governments and the medical community would have been able to identify and monitor cases in real time, using advanced data analysis to identify disease outbreaks by looking for spikes in the reporting of symptoms,” he said.

“This data could be used to predict pandemic risk, target quarantining measures, and allocate medical resources for diagnosis and treatment where they’re most needed.

“Using telehealth, at-risk people could be diagnosed and supported without having to leave their homes. This would also reduce the risk of exposure to the virus for healthcare workers, preventing inadvertent spread to other vulnerable patients and saving personal protective equipment for when it’s really needed.”

ATSE says its investigation found that smart devices that check temperature and oxygen levels, health appointments via Skype, e-health records that hospitals which antibiotics patients are allergic to, digital disease surveillance, and modelling that pinpoints regions showing signs of outbreaks.

The investigation - A New Prescription: preparing for a healthcare transformation - was published on Tuesday and includes four recommendations designed to help policymakers, businesses and researchers implement necessary changes, including:

  • switching to electronic health records as soon as possible;
  • using telehealth and mobile technology to improve access;
  • supporting and empowering healthcare workers to retrain, adapt and develop skills to use new digital technologies; and
  • targeted government support for translating medical research and preparing it to get where it’s needed – to patients.

ATSE says it spoke to experts in business, government and research to find the best solutions available through digital and data technologies for delivering precision medicine and integrated care. Importantly, they also explored the potential barriers that could prevent or impair the uptake of these technologies.

“The clear response was that we need to invest in education as well as equipment,” Professor Bradlow said.

“We need to make the jobs of our healthcare workers easier, not harder, and we need to ensure that the broader public has confidence in the system.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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