Monday, September 7, 2009

Technology & the Healthcare Industry

One of the great things about working in the Technology space is the enormous scope of vertical industries that we get to work with as technology becomes so pervasive in almost every aspect of our lives.

Over the last few months conversation around the National Broadband Network has firmly turned the spotlight on e-health. Government stimulus spending is at an all time high and debates around privacy are becoming less heated as the world acclimatises to sharing personal information on the net with Web 2.0 applications and as developments in web security progress.

Recent progress in the health technology arena has seen so many amazing solutions and products come to the fore, products and solutions that will have real, lasting effects on Australians. As an avid technology fan with a past life in the healthcare industry, I have to say this particular set of products really excite me.

I mean sure, iPods are cool, but they mean diddly-squat when stacked up against the da Vinci robotics products, that allow surgeons to operate on patients from anywhere in the world and in the least invasive way possible. How about Cisco’s HealthPresence – TelePresence for the healthcare industry – which means in the future I could go to the shopping centre, pop into the HealthPresence pod and be seen by a Doctor for my checkup- regardless of my Doctor’s location. These pods are being trialed on the other side of the ditch at the moment and elsewhere.

Just last Friday a consortium was announced to manage Chronic Disease Care in Australia – the Chronic Disease Management Network (CDM-Net). According to Karen Dearne at The Australian’s article "CDMS basically uses the web and our intelligent software to automate a number of tasks, such as populating an electronic health record and generating a treatment plan using best-practice guidelines. The doctor shares this information with other team members, such as pharmacists, diabetes educators and podiatrists, and in turn they contribute their observations so there is ongoing collaboration and much more effective care for the individual patient.”

There are also many Australian (and international companies) doing great work into the digitising of our medical records and taking on the massive task of connecting all our disparate health data. Organisations such as NEHTA (National E-Health Transition Authority) are pushing the initiative along, saying; “Across Australia there is a groundswell of support for a better, more connected healthcare system. More than 80 percent of Australians are in favour of electronic health records and are increasingly aware of the safety and quality benefits that e-health can deliver.” Unfortunately it has not been the easiest task, and as Andrew McIntyere’s blog at Medical-Objects notes, “Health IT is hard because the problem that we are trying to solve is huge, changes rapidly and cannot be modelled completely at any one point in time. It also rightly needs to be done with a very high level of security and even low levels of fraud and security breaches are intolerable and cannot be assigned to an “acceptable level of fraud” - which is what happens in the banking industry.”

So yes, I am looking forward to seeing Apple’s next installment of the iPhone, but really, the above marks such an enormous contribution to our society, and one day, it might even save your life.

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