I recently attended the Australian Healthcare Week Expo to learn more about what was happening in the health tech / ehealth / digital health space. While I’m a firm believer that this industry is behind the 8 ball, it was great to see some of the players breaking away from the mould and really leveraging current technology.
Confused by this statement? You only have to ask your Doctor if your records from the Doctor, Allied Health Professional and Specialist can be viewed in the one format, even better, in the one solution. A young doctor would laugh at you because that’s all he or she has been waiting for but knows the governing bodies won’t adopt that kind of solution. An older doctor will laugh at you but for different reasons. He or she can’t even fathom that concept.
Aside from my cynical painting of the industry, I did notice a few different tech solutions now available in Australia.
Dementia Australia: I’m not just interested in tech for professional reasons, but also for personal reasons. When I see a potential solution for a personal problem, this stops me in my tracks. No, I don’t suffer from Dementia but my Dad did. The Dementia Australia stand at the expo didn’t stop me in my tracks for the possibility of a cure but perhaps just some progress, however small; progress is progress. While Dementia is clearly something that can’t be controlled right now (maybe I am a little optimistic), the environment and treatment of Dementia Patients can be. Dementia Australia offer training to healthcare providers. While they may offer text book and e-learning formats, it’s The Virtual Forest and learning through Virtual Reality that peaked my interest.
‘The Virtual Forest is a sensory application designed to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia through the use of video game technology. Residents are seated in front of a beautiful projected garden image and, through the use of kinect technology and gentle movement, can guide and change the scenery; interacting with fish, mother duck and her ducklings, butterflies and a boat. The Virtual Forest is designed to place the person living with dementia in control of their environment and experience.’
The Virtual Reality aspect in terms of training is equally as immersive and fun. Health providers are given a Virtual Reality headset where they can explore and better understand what it feels like to live with dementia but also how simple changes to the environment and how their patients are treated can make a big difference to the lives of their patients.
‘Enabling EDIE uses virtual reality technology to enhance your knowledge of the impact of dementia and to develop a support plan that enables Edi and his wife to live more confidently with dementia. The aim of the training workshop is to better understand dementia from the perspective of the consumer through an Educational Dementia immersive Experience (Enabling EDIE). The three hour workshop introduces a ‘reablement’ approach, focusing positively on what people can do, given support, and on the possibilities for living well with dementia. ‘
HappyOrNot: I know, I know, this technology isn’t anything new or ‘futuristic’ by any means but what I’m more excited about is that by implementing a Smiley Terminal (you might have seen one in IKEA) in places like Hospitals, GP practices and Imaging Labs does this mean the customer/user will be heard and appropriate change will be implemented? I sure do hope so.
A big part of designing and developing any technical solution is test and iterate. While a solution is being used, we can monitor the usage, gain insights into the UX and implement change where we see it’s needed. For a long time, the consumer has had zero power in terms of the experience they have when it comes to their health. Perhaps with HappyOrNot, the consumer might gain some power and the provider might make important but simple changes to the experience which could change things dramatically.
SensFloor: Germans really do know how to make ‘stuff’ well, don’t they. Ich bin vielleicht ein bißchen voreingenommen – that’s german for ‘I may be a little bias’, being german and all, but they really do have their finger on the pulse in terms of what we want and how to deliver it in a way that resonates and lasts.
‘SensFloor is a large area capacitive sensor floor, installable beneath all kind of flooring – invisible and discreet. Persons walking across the floor trigger signals which are sent wirelessly to a transceiver. This system can calculate the number of persons on the floor, their direction and speed as well as detect falls.’
A really easy way to understand how SensFloor could work but more importantly, who could benefit from it is to think of your local hospice or aged care facility. Whether a resident is in a small serviced room where they’re check on regularly or for those who don’t yet need 24/7 support, and live in serviced apartments, with SensFloor under the flooring, staff can monitor each resident during the day and night. This is great for those who still prefer their privacy. Heatmaps can show all movement over a time frame and if there has been a fall, the system will alert staff so the resident can be attended to immediately.
So, while we don’t yet have complete interoperability between Doctor, Specialist and Allied nor do we have one universal Health Record, we are seeing some really exciting steps forward in the health tech space. With gradual adoption of technology and every day tasks like online consults and prescriptions on the rise, how will technology change the way we interact with our health providers?