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Health Tech | Digitisation facilitating healthcare research

Published:Sunday | December 5, 2021 | 12:09 AMDoug Halsall - Contributor
We have to have a centralised national Electronic Health Record (EMR) that is shared within the public and private sectors so that patients’ records can be comprehensive and thorough.
We have to have a centralised national Electronic Health Record (EMR) that is shared within the public and private sectors so that patients’ records can be comprehensive and thorough.
Doug Halsall
Doug Halsall
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There’s a wealth of data in healthcare that can be used to determine how to manage many other areas. For example, an illness in a geographic area can alert health managers to a problem plaguing people specific to that community. This may have an effect on issues such as productivity and mental health. Solving this problem will have positive economic, social and health benefits.

The state of health can have positive and negative repercussions for many areas of society, as we have witnessed from the COVID-19 pandemic in the last two years – education and the economy are two such examples of areas that have been most affected during this experience. Therefore, any improvement in population health will be felt in productivity gains and economic development.

We can use healthcare data for research, to help to solve future problems and prepare for events once we understand how to mine the data. The ability to do this efficiently is one of the benefits of healthcare digitisation. We have known for years, with the emergence of technology companies and social media giants, that data is one of the most valuable currencies in the world.

Many media companies offer their services for free in exchange for user data. Websites will seek to use cookies to track user data because this can be used to determine how to sell products and to whom. It narrows down marketing by targeting specific information to specific people. This gives companies the ability to target people ‘face to face’ in a virtual way for their products.

EVIDENCE-BASED DATA

In the world of healthcare, electronic data is just as valuable. The ability to mine the data is what is made possible by digitisation. It allows for easy access and isolation of variables to establish trends in different areas and for different purposes. For example, the data would allow healthcare managers to determine the gamut of health issues faced by people of a certain parish, a town in a parish, a particular age group or gender – together or as individual variables.

Once these trends are determined, the policies can be put in place to address them and also mitigate or prepare for future issues that may come up. In short, predictions can be made easily by using evidence-based data.

Now you can see how this kind of information can facilitate health research in an easy and more efficient way. As an example, although we are not quite there yet, the technology is capable of storing genetic information based on people’s individual and family health history. This information can allow for predictions of issues such as the likelihood of cancer in an individual down to the possible type. This can have enormous value for cancer research, and can allow researchers to easily isolate variables that they think might affect the development of the disease.

There are a multitude of other issues that can be investigated in this way, leading to more evidenced-based solutions, increased options for care and preventive care plans.

CENTRALISED SYSTEM

In order to achieve this, we have to have a centralised national Electronic Health Record (EMR) that is shared within the public and private sector so that patients’ records can be comprehensive and thorough. The more facilities opt for digitisation, the closer we will be to achieving this goal.

Research in health can be revolutionised with healthcare digitisation. If policymakers are able to access comprehensive population data in a way that can easily facilitate analysis, then they will be able to make decisions that could help to make healthcare planning seamless. Healthcare digitisation can achieve this and thereby provide enormous resources for planning.

I am heartened by the fact that we are much further ahead in technology than we were a decade ago and we have been recognising its importance in health. More and more patients and healthcare workers in the public and private sectors are demanding more efficient and easier means of accessing and providing healthcare. I am confident that at the current pace, we will get to where we can use this data to make meaningful change.

- Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to doug.halsall@gmail.com and editorial@gleanerjm.com.