For some years I’ve been hoping to see a fundamental IT-enabled convergence between different areas of healthcare – allowing service providers and patients to genuinely be partners in care. Healthcare Innovation Expo 2011 made me confident that far-reaching change is underway. One reason is the sheer range of interests that now come together at these events, from IT vendors like CSC, or technology transfer experts such as Imperial Innovations to Healthcare at Home and Boots. But it’s more than that, it’s the growing sense that IT can provide endless opportunities to connect up and develop in previously unimagined ways.
It’s what happened with the internet. Before it arrived we could do all sorts of amazing stuff, so what did it add? Things got exciting when entrepreneurs began using it to join services up. Twenty years ago a train journey meant passing the time by reading a book and eating a curled up sandwich. Now I email colleagues, exchange documents, download videos or books, or urgently order flowers because I’ve just remembered a birthday.
Right now I get the sense that the same thing is happening in healthcare. The fact of more and more people and services becoming connected will take us to a new level. And with challenges to cope with like an ageing population and shrinking world healthcare workforce, it’s essential that it happens fast. What the end result will look like is unpredictable – few could honestly claim they foresaw exactly what the internet would bring. It should lead to healthcare that’s tailored to the patient and highly automated, but most importantly, that is seamless and where possible, delivered remotely. Ever the optimist, I think that will result in more anticipatory care, better management of conditions in the community and fewer hospital visits – things our overburdened NHS yearns for. It might even mean that if you do have an inpatient stay, you can order meals you like in advance. Mind you, I still live in hope that one day I’ll get a decent sandwich on a train.