Technology For Enhanced Healthcare

Executive summary

The prudence of quality healthcare cannot be overemphasized. Healthcare determines the productivity of the people and significantly influences the growth of the area in question. Therefore, nations and municipalities have strived to ensure quality healthcare is provided to the people. Transformations in healthcare are taking shape with the development and increased adoption of various technologies into service delivery and while there are risks involved, it is generally plausible that technology offers a crucial role in improving healthcare. This paper presents a discussion on the adoption of technology covering the types of technologies, the benefits, risks, and recommendations on measures to enhance the adoption and utilization of technology in healthcare with reference to the Tower Hamlets borough

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Background information

The overall health situation among the people living in Tower Hamlets borough presents an area with dire healthcare situation. The onset of poor health occurs when people turn into their late fifties. Statistics reveal that a man living in the borough starts to develop health problems from the age of 54 compared to 64 in the rest of the country (Tower Hamlets 2018). For a woman, it is 56 compared to 64. This places the borough into an area with a dire need for revamping of health and social care. The reasons behind the poor health scores include the health impacts of higher levels of poverty (low income, unemployment, and insecure employment), poor housing quality, overcrowding, homelessness, social isolation, poor air quality, lack of access to affordable healthy food and lack of green spaces (Tower Hamlets 2018).

These factors are linked to low birth weight, dental decay in children, childhood obesity, smoking, unhealthy diet, alcohol consumption, high-risk sexual behaviour and the use of illegal drugs. The end result is reflected in the borough’s higher levels of physical and mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, long-term lung diseases, liver disease, tuberculosis, and HIV (NHS England 2018). NHS has provided an elaborate approach towards increasing the quality and accessibility of healthcare across the UK and technology is at the focal point of these recommendations. Each respective borough, therefore, bears the responsibility to develop a system of healthcare that ensures effective management of chronic conditions and alleviate situations such as those witnessed in the Tower Hamlets.

Discussion

The transformation of health services from conventional healthcare to digital health care has gained momentum in recent times. Nations have developed strategies to incorporate technology into healthcare. Since healthcare is important to the nation as a healthy population translates to a productive and prosperous nation, the framework for improved health services ought to be concrete and comprehensive (Lintern 2018).

Electronic (E)-health uses ICT in the health sector for clinical, education and administrative purpose, at both local site and remotely. E-health allows the uses of computer, network and information technology to advance healthcare quality, patient safety and secure confidential access to health information to enable individuals and communities to make the best possible health decision (Senigram et al 2018; Lintern 2018). E-health aids in plummeting the cost incurred on healthcare by cutting the heavy administration bill customarily associated with public healthcare program, hereby improved reliability, secure and efficient of health delivery. (E)-health encouraging healthier lifestyles in the entire population, including increased physical activity, better nutrition, avoidance of behavioural risks, and wider use of preventative care.

Technological advancements in healthcare have been witnessed and targeted at specific healthcare sectors with the aim of transforming service delivery and enhancing the efficiency of healthcare. The four key areas of technological development in healthcare by the NHS England (2018), adopted by health facilities in the UK and Tower Hamlets borough are digital medicine, genomics, artificial intelligence, and robotics. NHS pursues to integrate these technologies in performing various health and social care functions to improve the quality of healthcare and increase the life expectancy of the people in Tower Hamlets borough which is currently slightly below 60 years (NHS England 2018; Tower Hamlets 2018).

Technologies have been associated with immense benefits in healthcare making it prudent to cover the main benefits of technology in healthcare. First, the integration of technology in healthcare will significantly improve the accuracy of diagnosis and boost the efforts to manage chronic medical conditions (Evans 2018). Machines relying on technologies such as artificial intelligence and genomics have the capability of identifying chronic medical conditions like tumours that can cause cancer. This early identification helps in effectively managing the condition before its escalation. Technology can also be relied upon in providing treatment to patients in health facilities with precision. Digitalized medicine system can administer medicine to patients in wards and provide the right dosage at the precisely required time (Goran 2010). This can be applied to all patients with ease reducing the efforts that otherwise would be spent by doctors moving from one room to the other administering medicine.

Evidence also proves the fact that technology in healthcare makes provision of services swift and easier. Tasks performed in health facilities can be diminished with the adoption of technology in healthcare. For instance, the collection, storage, retrieval and sharing of patient’s health records is simplified with the application of electronic medical records which utilizes the computers to perform these tasks. Different departments within the healthcare can access the patient’s information reducing the time required to transfer information from one department to the other (Liu et al 2018; Luckin 2018). From reception to consultation, laboratory, theatre, and pharmacy among other departments, patients will not have to re-explain their conditions any time they meet a different physician. Instead, the physicians will access the patient’s information from the computer and quickly attend to the patients.

Technology also aids in medical procedures in the theatres and surgical operations. Occasionally, patients require various surgical operations to alleviate the health conditions they face and it is the responsibility of the doctors to ensure successful operations and assure the patients of their recovery. With the adoption of technology, surgical operations can be bolstered since the machines provide enhanced precision and even reduce the time the patients are subjected to surgery in the theatre (Senigram et al 2018). Robotics can be quite helpful in performing these surgical procedures since they can be programmed with precise instructions to perform the respective operations. NHS envisions adoption of these technological platforms in healthcare.

The technology around genomics targets patients with rare medical conditions and aims at utilizing genomic sequencing in the diagnosis of these conditions. Since its inception 20 years ago, the technology has evolved and become cheaper increasing its accessibility to patients in the UK as well as other countries such as United States, France, Germany, China, and Japan. NHS England has adopted a framework to foster the introduction of genomics in healthcare in the local areas, Tower Hamlets included. Precision medicine as envisioned genomics seeks to treat conditions based on genetic, environmental and lifestyle information of the individual in question (Duggal et al 2018).

NHS has dedicated the genomic medicine service department to provide national genomic testing for all specialties and equitable access of patients throughout the UK (NHS England 2018). Genomics seeks to enhance preventive strategies for many common, late-onset diseases. Genetic diagnostics will enable more efficient targeting of drugs, maximizing efficiency, optimizing dose and minimizing side effects. Increasingly, primary bio-informatic analysis and clinical interpretation of genomic findings will be delivered through high-throughput automated approaches.

Furthermore, genomic testing has the potential of capturing dynamic events relevant to health, including applications in foetal diagnostics, the early detection, surveillance and molecular characterization of cancers, the influence of the gut microbiome, and- through analysis of RNA, protein and metabolomics biomarkers- the evolution of the inflammatory and metabolic disease. Likewise, the ability to read the genomes of pathogens such as bacteria and viruses will continue to transform microbiology, supporting more rapid and accurate diagnostics, optimization of therapy, surveillance of infectious disease outbreaks, and more effective strategies for tackling antimicrobial resistance (Liu et al 2018).

Genomics in healthcare has a number of implications. To begin with, the patients accessing healthcare and subjected to genomic analysis will acquire their genetic information to aid in medication. Exploiting the full potential of genomics help patients acquire precise medications and will be able to have their serious medical conditions diagnosed (Sophie 2018). On the other hand, healthcare professionals will also benefit from genomics. The mainstreaming of genomic testing into healthcare will enable healthcare workers to be appropriately trained to utilize the technology in the examination and diagnosis of patients.

NHS England (2018) defines digital medicine as digital products and services intended to provide information on the diseases, the diagnosis, prevention, monitoring and treatment of diseases and medical conditions or syndromes. In this platform, patients use various technological devices such as mobile phones, laptops, and personal computers, as well as tablets to seek information aimed at managing medical conditions. Digital medicine occurs through different platforms. First, remote care involves access to medical services over the internet by accessing online consultation services. Medical doctors and physicians have online platforms where they offer consultancy services. With online consultations, patients may not necessarily visit health facilities for consultation services but can simply follow the instructions from the online consultations and purchase the medicines as per the prescriptions of the doctors (Goran 2010; NHS England 2018).

Patient self-management is another product resulting from digital medicine. With this platform, online communities have been created to allow patients to seek advice and share experiences of their conditions. The online communities also allow patients to swap tips for management of medical conditions as well as exchange resources (NHS England 2018). Mobile apps, one of the revolutionary products of digital technology are increasingly being utilized to communicate health information. NHS online library, for instance, provides a list of recommended medical mobile apps where patients can access information about health. Patients in the Tower Hamlets can access these mobile apps for information on the management of their health.

Estimations show that about 60% of the population in the UK access medical information online and find it needless to go again to access frontline services in the hospitals (NHS England 2018). This reduces the pressure on medical facilities to attend to the patient’s needs. Advances in sensor technology and wearable allows for remote monitoring outside of traditional hospital settings. Rapid diagnostic tests are revolutionalizing access to HIV testing in accident and emergency, primary care and in the home. Virtual reality, a technology first developed for gaming, is now being used for a variety of healthcare applications, including mental health and live streaming of surgical procedures to teach the next generation of surgeons (Lintern 2018).

Artificial intelligence is a technological advancement which utilizes computer systems to create a simulation of intelligent behaviour. These ‘intelligent’ computers are used to perform specialized functions that could be performed by humans. With artificial intelligence advancing, robots are used to aid in the execution of these functions. Health and social care are increasingly adopting artificial intelligence in the execution of medical activities and functions. Artificial intelligence is used in performing a wide variety of medical functions starting from genomics and drug discovery, to diagnosis and patient triage (Evans 2018). Currently, artificial intelligence is not routinely utilized in the NHS.

AI and robotics are data intensive and in healthcare, it can be utilized in combining large volumes of complex sources of data and perform classification and find the meaning of these data (Kumar et al 2013). This capacity of artificial intelligence to perform advanced mathematics, computations, cloud computing, and algorithms allow it to perform specialized functions in managing medical conditions.

AI has the potential to transform the delivery of healthcare in the NHS, from streamlining workflow processes to improving the accuracy of diagnosis and personalizing treatment, as well as helping staff work more efficiently and effectively. With modern AI, a mix of human and artificial intelligence can be deployed across discipline boundaries to generate greater collective intelligence. Robotics encompasses the design, construction, operation, and application of intelligent machines, and has been applied to medicine for more than 30 years (Sophie 2018). Robot-assisted surgery is now becoming more common in orthopaedic, laparoscopic and neurosurgical procedures. Miniaturization of electronics to create smaller, smarter components (high-density batteries, high-performance microcomputing, sensors, and actuators) is expanding the scope of robotics for healthcare.

A benefit of systematically implementing AI and robotics in the NHS will be the automation of tasks viewed as mundane or repetitive that does not require much human cognitive power (NHS England 2018). Additionally, AI or robotics may automate tasks that go beyond human analytical or physical capabilities. Both of these applications of AI will leave the workforce to focus on tasks considered ‘uniquely human’, especially human-to-human interaction and care.

The envisioned plan by NHS to achieve technology-based healthcare is supported by recommendations, policies, and directives for the adoption of technology in healthcare. However, achieving this plan in local boroughs like the London borough of the Tower Hamlets depends on the efforts of the local leadership and the management of the health facilities in the adoption of technology-based healthcare.

The theories of management provide a rational point of view on the ideal functions of management in enhancing transformations in areas such as healthcare. Scholars have developed different theories of management which can be applied to healthcare.

The human relations theory was championed by Elton Mayo and emphasizes the importance of relationships in the growth and progress of the organizations. The theory postulates that change in the organizations can occur if the management values and seeks to build relationships within the workforce which empowers the staff to increase their productivity. Productivity is a function of the staff feeling part of the supportive group of fellow workers due to equal and fair treatment (NHS England 2018).

The theory further emphasizes that treating staff with respect and value and developing a sense of belonging are key to effectively managing the workforce and effecting change. The application of this theory of management envisions an environment where the management works in harmony with the rest of the staff and appreciates supports and encourages the efforts by the healthcare staff in effecting the desired change, which is the integration of technology in health and social care (Evans 2018).

On overcoming the resistance to change, Kurt Lewin, another influential proponent of human relations theory in a study found out that workers in the pyjama industry were more receptive to organizational changes when they were accorded the opportunity to discuss the new work methods and exercise some influence on their decisions. This unique blend of autonomy and value seeks to appreciate the individual’s efforts in bringing change enabling the management to empower the workers to fully participate in the integration of change in the organization (Bamford and Forrester 2003).

Contingency theory is another point of view that emphasizes the role of management in effecting change in an organization. This theory espouses that the manager’s decision making should be considerate of all the aspects pointing out the picture of the current state of the organization and effect measures to tackle those issues at hand.

This theory as championed by Fielder explains that numerous internal and external factors shape the organization’s pursuance of the objectives and the management, in pursuit for change or introduction of new methods of work should focus in addressing the pressing and urgent issues that could affect the operations and the achievement of the objectives (Kumar et al 2013; Bamford and Forrester 2003). These factors include the size of the organization, leadership style, and technology in use and how the organization can adapt to changes in the strategy. This explains the presence of contingency plans in organizations providing a framework of a planned course of action in times of emergencies. Unlike the human relations theory that champions for the empowering of the staff by providing support, encouraging and motivating their hard work, contingency theory of management values that whatever the management prioritize as urgent issues to be addressed should be respectively addressed for the change to occur.

Leadership and management play critical roles in enhancing the adoption of technology in health and social care. Leaders in the Tower of Hamlets borough can contribute to the changes in the healthcare system in the area through actions like mobilizing the resources for equipping the health facilities with modern technological machines and equipment, using their influence over the electorate to encourage the people in the borough to accept the technology rollout in the health facilities as well as actively seeking technology-based medical services and educating the people on the benefits and the risks of adoption of technology in healthcare. This awareness creation will enable people to make informed choices and consequently access technology-aided healthcare (Bamford and Forrester 2003).

Conclusion and recommendations

The adoption of technology in health and social care has numerous benefits ranging from easily accessible health information, swift diagnosis of the medical conditions of the clients resulting in timely medication, and enhanced capability to fight against serious medical conditions whose occurrence can render the patients terminally ill. The available technologies and the envisioned technological development in the future can, therefore, assure the patients of quality and specialized health care.

However, there are risks associated with technologies applied to health conditions. For instance, machines like computers have radioactive emissions where long and continuous exposure to such rays can be harmful to either the patient or the health professional

Issues of data protection and security raise fears among the population on the integrity of their health information being stored in computer systems and the guarantee that such information will not be accessible to unauthorized personnel.

Hacking of information systems by malicious criminals who use such data to perform heinous activities as well as use the information for blackmail and demanding money or exposing the medical information. By and large, the technology aims at enhancing better service deliveries in health facilities, improving the quality of healthcare and aid in fighting chronic medical conditions before they occur. Therefore, some recommendations are quite necessary.

First, the benefits associated with technology and the success stories of the effective integration of technology to revolutionize healthcare makes it a worthy investment. Therefore, the borough should strive to roll out comprehensive technology in healthcare as this will significantly increase the number of healthy people in the borough, increase life expectancy and reduce the mortalities occasioning from effective management of chronic medical conditions. However, confidentiality and data security should be prioritized.

Secondly, the leadership has a huge role to play in creating awareness and support for technology-based health care. Informed public will understand the technologies applied in health care and their potentials and weaknesses to aid in informed choices on the type of healthcare desired by the patient

In pursuit of technology-based healthcare, the leadership and the respective management should integrate technology with conventional health care in order to attract people of divergent preferences.

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References

  • Bamford, D.R., and P.L. Forrester. 2003. Managing planned and emergent change within an operations management environment. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 23 (5): p. 546-564.
  • Duggal R., Brindle I, and Bagenal J, 2018. ‘Digital healthcare: regulating the revolution’, British Medical Journal
  • Evans H, 2018. ‘Using data in the NHS: the implications of the opt-out and the GDPR’. King’s Fund website
  • Goran SF, 2010. ‘A second set of eyes: an introduction to tele-ICU’. Critical Care Nurse, vol 30, no 4, pp 46–55.
  • Kumar S, Merchant S, Reynolds R, 2013. ‘Tele-ICU: efficacy and cost-effectiveness approach of remotely managing the critical care’. The Open Medical Informatics Journal, vol 6, pp 24–29.
  • Lintern S, 2018. ‘Exclusive: Hunt seeks ‘full health and social care integration’ under new 10 year plan’. Health Service Journal, 9 May.
  • Liu X., Keane P. and Denniston A., 2018. ‘Time to regenerate: the doctor in the age of artificial intelligence’, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, vol. 111, no. 4
  • Luckin R. 2018. Machine Learning and Human Intelligence: the future of Education for the 21st century, London, University College London, Institute of Education Press,.
  • NHS England, 2018. Developing the long term plan for the NHS Briefing from the Long Term Plan Engagement Team,
  • Semigran HL, Linder JA, Gidengil C, Mehrotra A, 2015. ‘Evaluation of symptom checkers for self-diagnosis and triage: audit study’. British Medical Journal, vol 351, p 3480.
  • Sophie Castle-Clarke (2018); ‘What will new technology mean for the NHS and its patients? Four big technological trends’; The Health Foundation, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust, 2018.

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