Adoption of Telehealth in Ireland & the UK

Telehealth Adoption in Ireland & UK

eHealth can benefit citizens, patients, health and care professionals but also health organisations and public authorities. eHealth – when applied effectively – delivers more personalised ‘citizen-centric’ healthcare, which is more targeted, effective and efficient and helps reduce errors, as well as the length of hospitalisation. It facilitates socio-economic inclusion and equality, quality of life and patient empowerment through greater transparency, access to services and information for health”… European Union eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020

Extensive research, ground-breaking technology, and global executive buy-in have laid the foundations for an eHealth (and Telehealth in particular) revolution in our modern industry. As far back as the 58th World Health Assembly, 13 years ago, Telehealth has been put at the centre of strategic healthcare planning. But, has the reality of its implementation been as emphatic as originally planned?

The relevancy and requirement for Telehealth in the modern world isn’t confined to researchers, committees, and established healthcare professionals. It has become glaringly apparent over recent years, that Telehealth is not the future, it is the now. Why? We are now presented with changing demographics, increased consumerism, and the realisation that healthcare has lagged behind other service industries who have embedded powerful information-based systems for decades.

Here in Ireland, implementation of Telehealth has not been without its challenges. While policies and frameworks have outlined the mission (Future Health – A Strategic Framework for Reform of the Irish Health Service 2012-2015, Money Follows the Patient – Policy Paper on Hospital Financing, etc.), a heavily strained Health system has struggled to provide infrastructure and investment to match. Statistics show that Ireland’s national healthcare ICT spend is 0.85% of the total healthcare budget contrastingly lower than the EU average of 2-3%.

However, wide-ranging belief and confidence in the area of Telehealth, and wider eHealth implementation from a range of stakeholders, has delivered some very positive advancements. From impressive Irish-owned innovations such as TickerFitBeats Medical, Caredoc and Healthlink’s long running respective services, to Cork’s iHeed initiative and startup’s like Wellola offering cloud-based Telehealth software, there is an undeniable movement towards expanding the industry.

Slaintecare proposes to use “eHealth as key tool for developing a universal health system and integrated care”. eHealth Ireland have outlined strategies such as “Cloud First” and “Shift Left” to support its implementation.  These strategies signal a very motivating and promising signs of innovation in the Irish public health sector.

In the UK, the initial focus on Telehealth was showcased at the turn of the millennium, as the NHS published papers and programs for the implementation of ICT in the health service in England followed by an £11 billion investment in the decade that followed. Babylon Health recently secured an agreement to service the NHS with online GP services for their public sector patient, with Irish-owned VideoDoc also securing an impressive partnership with Anxiety UK.

Major advancements have been made in Telehealth in England & Wales with significant integration with information-based systems, and notably, one of the largest Telehealth care trials in the world taking place between 2009 and 2011.

In contrast to some extent, Scotland implemented frameworks much later, with their strategy documents not being published until 2008 (eHealth Strategy 2008-2011). However, their progress in the past decade has been very strong. Their implementation of their Patient Management System, coupled with their training and education in the area (Scottish Centre for Telehealthcare (SCT)), has signalled a massive shift towards the Telehealth takeover and commitment to continuous improvement in the industry.

Northern Ireland has also made great strides in Telehealth implementation. Much like their neighbours, the shift towards Telehealth is showcased by their Connected Health and Prosperity agenda, outlining procedural integrations of ICT and Telehealth in to their wider structures, plus the private sector success of their major tele-monitoring service.

Evidently, the procedures, the policies, and the push towards Telehealth in the Ireland and the UK has been substantial, which is positive news for everyone. And encouragingly, the local/regional influence also shows the power of the everyday healthcare provider in driving the implementation of Telehealth and wider eHealth.

The key to continued success now lies with those exact stakeholders, those who can implement Telehealth at grass roots level, day to day. With Telehealth software platforms now increasingly available, with increasingly effective cloud-based technologies, there now remains minimal barriers for all healthcare providers to drive the change further.

If offering patients greater access and convenience is a priority and if future-proofing ones healthcare business is on the agenda then embracing technology is a must; those that embrace telehealth will not only empower their patients but also position their clinics at an even greater competitive advantage.



Global Trends In The Healthcare Market

In an ever-changing, digital world, how can healthcare providers prepare for the future?

Global Trends in the Health Market

Society has changed. It continues to change. All consumer-facing industries must adapt to innovation, development and change or fear being left behind. The world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. The world’s biggest media owner, creates no content. The world’s most valuable retailer, has no inventory. The world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no properties. Are we soon to see the world’s largest healthcare providers succeeding to care for their patients without any clinics?

Consumerism is the driving force behind this change in the market. As consumers demand improved accessibility to increasingly high-quality services, the skills and solutions which healthcare providers must offer to their customers, are no exception to the rule. Next generation healthcare includes AI and robotic technology as genuine treatment options, with wearable technology already being used as a preventative solution for the everyday health-conscious consumer. Coupled with a rapidly ageing population (11.5% of us are over 65), the seismic change in the healthcare market is wide-reaching, and it is here to stay.

As healthcare providers, we have seen the decline of the provider-driven market, where access to healthcare information was limited, doctor’s recommendations were final and digital tools were virtually non-existent. We are now in a reality, where information is freely available, patients are seen as active partners in the process and even their smartphones play a part in the diagnosis and delivery of care.

This much broader ranging, patient-centric approach to healthcare is the key to success for modern healthcare providers. Most evident in the “shift-left stay-left” healthcare model, we are seeing an increased emergence of data-driven, prevention-based care, in stark contrast to the reactionary system of old.

Virtual care, telemedicine, remote- monitoring have become the standard, and are the flawless reflection of the new age of consumerism.

Of course, the consumer, albeit the obvious fuel in the healthcare engine, is not the only stakeholder driving the change. Emerging technologies and innovation in service delivery have also spurred a demand for change from the healthcare workforce.

Technology and innovation continue to be ground-breaking, not only in surgical and medical ability, but in the seamless integration between AI/robotics and the traditional medical professional. As healthcare providers, this also presents us with another vital consideration, that these new complimentary technologies may inevitably replace certain specialties.

While in stark contrast to the industry of the past, AI technology now plays a vitally important part in the future development of healthcare. These advances have been hugely welcomed by the market, and have showed little sign of suspected consumer mistrust.

“Research by PwC suggests that the public is ready for AI and robots in the healthcare arena. A survey of more than 12,000 people in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa found that a substantial percentage of consumers would be willing to substitute AI and robots for humans in some parts of healthcare.”

What does this mean for the private healthcare professional?

Telehealth (e.g. video consultation care) is a growth area within the wider healthcare industry, which has responded to these developments by addressing the concerns of the consumer, while providing innovative, efficient and implementable options to healthcare professionals. Online GP consultations & e-prescriptions now give the office worker their lunch-hour back. Online speech & language therapy sessions now give the mother and toddler their afternoon back. Connecting with a therapist from the comfort of home now makes those first steps to healing a little easier. Why travel, park, and sitting in a waiting room when you could just open your laptop?

It also provides more than simply the consumer-focused, arguably obvious solution, of bringing healthcare to the consumer as opposed to vice versa. It also provides healthcare providers with the reassurance of sustainability. Reduced administration, reduced no-shows, and the ability to reach those who can’t reach you, are vital considerations for those availing of the telehealth solutions market.

All signs point toward a future which is quickly becoming the present. Substantial research, development, innovation, and investment is facilitating and generating a wave of change in the healthcare world.

As Deloitte’s 2018 Global Life Sciences Outlook notes, global healthcare spending is set to reach $8.7 trillion by 2020. Where is this money being spent? On ageing populations, rising labour costs, and of course, advances in healthcare.With some of the world’s largest companies and institutions entering and reinventing the global healthcare market (Samsung, MIT etc.), the onus remains on the everyday provider, to keep up.