Healthcare is changing. Or perhaps more accurately, healthcare needs to change. And Salaso was founded to make that happen.
Not a day goes by without a fresh story about over-worked clinicians, or patients unable to access the services they expect. In the last few months, a wave of familiar winter illnesses has left health services in Ireland, the UK, and across Europe ‘on the brink of collapse’.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Better healthcare for all is possible. And it isn’t just a matter of resources (although yes, they would help). It is about re-thinking the way services are delivered, and particularly the way that the healthcare industry takes advantage of advances in technology, to secure the best possible care for all.
Looking at this wish list, most would agree that information technology has a role to play in our response. But it is an area that is frequently misunderstood, and one that if implemented poorly can make matters worse, not better.
There are any number of technologies that a patient may interact with for lifestyle, wellness or health purposes. digital therapy can be a vital tool in changing the way healthcare is delivered.
The simplest and most obvious way technology can help is by supporting remote therapy. Whether that is actual interaction with a clinician, or simply providing the content a patient needs to follow a given course of treatment, the digital therapy that technology allows can deliver significant productivity benefits. It can also make patient’s lives a lot easier, of course.
And digital healthcare doesn’t stop there. Digital health technologies support the collection, parsing and presentation of data back to clinicians. That in turn gives them greater insight, supporting better decision-making and a higher standard of care overall.
It also gives us the ability to manage patients as individuals, as groups, and even as populations – and follow them across multiple interactions, with multiple clinicians, in multiple settings.In some cases, technology can alert clinicians to patients at risk and recommend interventions. It can save lives.
But technology alone is not the answer. Ultimately, successful healthcare needs clinicians in control: it just needs to ensure that their time is spent in the most effective way possible. We need digital health solutions that support clinicians, help them do more with less, and make their lives easier, not more complicated. We need to combine the best aspects of technology with the human touch, in genuine ‘hybrid care’ approaches.
That is the type of solution that we in Salaso have dedicated ourselves to delivering. And we think the ‘hybrid care’ it supports can make a real difference in health.
“Hybrid care” as a term is usually used to refer to a combination of in-person and virtual engagements between clinician and patient. As a definition, that is fine as far as it goes, but I believe that as healthcare professionals we should be more ambitious.
Instead of simply replacing some in-person visits to the doctor with a session on Zoom, shouldn’t we be creating a world in which patients can engage in whichever way that suits them? One in which integrated care is delivered across every potential setting, and where patients can switch between those settings seamlessly, and with every relevant clinician having the information he or she needs?
Shouldn’t we be exploring the areas in which digital therapy isn’t just cheaper, but is better in terms of patient and indeed population outcomes? To give just three examples these could include:
In each of these cases, digital therapy built on established medical pathways, and delivered within a clinical framework, has the potential to dramatically improve outcomes and greatly reduce dependency on acute settings.
But those caveats are key to the effective delivery of hybrid care. Without clinical oversight, and without an absolute commitment to medical best practices, everyone involved is short-changed – and we are just storing up trouble for the future. What is required is a system that allows digital (and indeed real-world) therapies to be delivered within an integrated, clinician-led framework.
Healthcare works best when controlled by clinicians. But the time of those clinicians is limited, and something stretched almost to breaking point. Fortunately, hybrid-care implemented in the right way can ensure that clinician time is consistently spent in the right way, and that ‘every contact counts’.
At the same time, it must also ensure that where clinicians are NOT needed, meaningful effective healthcare continues.
To fulfil both these criteria, a system must give clinicians the ability to place patients on the right treatment pathway, and have confidence in the quality of the digital content that supports it. It must also support the delivery of real-time patient feedback and data-driven insights – in a variety of forms – to the clinician.
With such a system in place clinicians are able to manage patient interaction, adjust care plans if necessary, arrange in-person consultations, or just send feedback electronically. In some cases, they may also want to refer the patient to another clinician or setting, and when they do all associated information follows that patient.
In other words, the clinician remains in control, but his or her reach is greatly extended, and patient engagement increases.
Why does this matter? Because ultimately it means better health outcomes, delivered with the same, or even fewer, resources.
It becomes easier to place patients onto meaningful therapeutic and preventative pathways, and assess their progress, without requiring constant check-ins. It enables patients to find the right health services for them, without having to attend at a physical location first. And it supports ‘round the clock’ treatment and recovery for patients, which in turn means getting them out of acute settings faster than ever.
In short, it goes a long way to making our healthcare systems work for all.