SpesNews Volume 134
THE UTILISATION OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLINICAL SETTING
As reported in SpesNews Volume 133, there is a huge imbalance between the number of healthcare professionals per population when South Africa is compared to other developed or developing countries. At a time where access to healthcare remains a priority as one of the Millennium Goals, this discrepancy will not be easy to overcome.
The traditional solutions to address this problem would probably have been limited to the training of more healthcare professionals or the importing of healthcare professionals from other countries. A third option that is becoming more viable, is for healthcare professionals to optimise the contact time with the patient and to improve efficiency in the management of the patient. While advances in the development and deployment of wireless communication technology still continues at a staggering rate, the huge uptake of mobile and wearable technology in addition to the proliferation of data offerings mean that healthcare specialists gain access to an additional portal for patient consultation and patient health information.
We have entered the dawn of the digital age and the wealth of healthcare information that is now at the disposal of healthcare specialists’ hands not only alters the way we view disease and health, it can ultimately alter the way we manage and treat our patients in a global and holistic setting. The Bio-Psycho-Social model of medicine and all of its benefits related to healthcare can now be fully realised.
This article is the introduction on the practical implementation of remote patient monitoring devices to:
improve your patient’s compliance and involvement in the management of their condition;
more efficiently utilise the time of the healthcare professional in the management of the patient’s disease;
appropriately utilise the available technology in the clinical setting to support clinical decisions and
reduce medico-legal risk while adhering to the principles of good clinical practice.
A huge number of patients currently use smartphones. This implies that both the functions as well as the phone processing power allows for much more than the simple sending of a SMS (short message service) or MMS (multimedia message service). These devices can also be utilised as patient monitoring devices capable of effectively communicating with a healthcare specialist or facility, wirelessly and almost instantaneously. Patients with symptoms can now use their devices to record and convey vital clinical information that could assist the healthcare practitioner to obtain immediate insight in the problem the patient experiences and recommend or provide the most appropriate treatment or action.
It is interesting to note that most glucometers already employ similar technology to communicate blood results of diabetic patients effectively. The software integrated into these devices are also capable of compiling a comprehensive report (inclusive of graphs) that can be sent to their treating specialist to form part of the clinical patient record.
NO LIMITATIONS TO IMAGINATION
Imagine a technology that could inform the treating doctor when a patient encounters a cardiac event. This technology would be able to show the doctor what the event would have looked like on ECG and would answer the following extremely important questions:
When did it happen and how long did it last?
Why did it happen?
By linking the onset of the event with the appropriate biometric indicator value (for instance blood pressure) or even the patient level of activity, the management of the patient can be conducted much more comprehensively than merely treating a symptom or suspected condition.
Additionally, less delays in treatment also directly translates into theoretically less complications, improved treatment outcomes and an increased patient quality of life. Imagination is no longer required because the technology exists and is being used effectively in some practices at this very moment. Ultimately it is not a matter of “if” my practice will employ these technologies anymore, but rather “when”.
Areas of remote patient monitoring via biometric data are gaining traction both nationally and internationally and opens up a whole new world of opportunities.
SpesNet is aware of the solvency issues that are currently associated with the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS). In terms of the Medical Schemes Act 131 of 1998 (and regulations to the Act), the minimum level of solvency that is required from a medical scheme should be 25%. GEMS currently reside well below this ratio. It does, however not mean that GEMS is not able to pay for medical scheme claims. SpesNet furthermore did not receive any formal comment from the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) regarding GEMS and would advise practices to maintain business as usual when seeing GEMS patients. At present, payment arrangement (or other arrangements where these have been entered into with GEMS) should remain honored and intact from the practice’s side and SpesNet will forward updates as these are received.