ehealth

Most Europeans born today will live into their eighties but behind that impressive statistic lie inequalities and ill-health. It’s time we focused on adding life to years instead of years to life. In 1990, life expectancy at birth was 74.1 years in Europe. Today, it’s 80.9. This is a remarkable achievement, by any measure. However, adding to our quantity of life is no guarantee of quality of life. Yes, the chances of surviving cancer, heart attack and stroke are higher than ever, thanks to improved healthcare. The prospects of surviving without disability are less rosy. Startling statistic Here is one of the most shocking statistics I’ve read in a long time: men and women spend 79% and 74% of their lives, respectively, in good health. Or, to put it another way, men live more than a fifth of their lives in bad health while women live more than a quarter of their lives in an unhealthy state. This explains why policymakers are shifting focus to healthy life years . The EU is trying to add two healthy life years – or ‘disability-free life expectancy’ – to our lives by 2020. After all, adding two more years to life is not worth much if they are two extra years of misery. Today in Europe, 50 million people over the age of 65 live with two or more chronic conditions, according to figures published by the EU/OECD . This comes at a profound human cost as well as an estimated economic loss of €115 billion. Another challenge that lies behind the impressive life expectancy figures is inequality. Let’s take gender first: the typical European women lives to around 83 while her male counterpart is lucky if he celebrates his 78 th birthday. Even bigger disparities emerge if we compare Europe’s best-performing health...
In the second of a two-part series, Dr. Johnny Walker talks about Jinga Life and the power of managing healthcare at home. Read the first part here . We have an ever growing clinical demand and an ever rising consumer expectation to deliver "best of breed" services across every step of the patient journey. We are living in a world where consumer-led market disruption is the norm in business, where technology that at one point was contained purely in the realm of Sci-Fi is now ubiquitous and commoditized. The current resources are strained and incapable of delivering services in this way and we are buckling under the daily fight for survival at the clinical coal face. The traditional healthcare system is simply unsustainable despite the phenomenal efforts of everyone within the ecosystem in putting their shoulder to the wheel. We need to rethink the healthcare structures. An important observation from my experience is that, in 92% of cases, the ever present custodian of well-being in a family is female. Whether this is accompanying the patient, or being the first person members of the family call when they are sick, the centre of well-being in many family units is the female, the protector, the shepherd, the warrior. The Jinga [1] . Jinga Life aims to engage, embrace, enable, empower, and educate the Jinga. By populating an Electronic Health Record, designed and maintained by the Jinga for the family, extending primary care models to include the home, and using simple technologies to increase the connectivity between the Jinga and the family’s care professionals, Jinga Life desires to place the Jinga at the centre of her healthcare team. Our vision is to change focus from the traditional hospital based doctor focused solution, and put the Jinga at the core of her and her...
eHealth technologies are pulling together personal information from diverse sources to ensure a more personalised, informed healthcare service – it’s what patients expect Precision medicine is the use of all available information about a patient to produce the most informed care plan possible. This is often associated with using genetic or other “-omics” information to help doctors select which medicine to prescribe for their patient. For example, testing a cancer patient for specific biomarkers can tell doctors which chemotherapy will work best. But it’s much bigger than that. If you look at what contributes to premature death, around 30% is thought to be genetic. The rest is a combination of our environment, diet, exercise, work, mental health, social interactions and other exogenous factors. So why limit ourselves to genetic data alone? As healthcare is now in the information era, the challenge is to pull together the vast quantity of data that exists and aggregate it in a way that allows health services to be tailored to each patient. There is already a wealth of data and this is expected to increase 50-fold in the next eight years. There is no way any physician can cope with this volume of information. That’s why software companies are playing an increasing role in healthcare. Information overload is essentially an IT challenge: how do we access and surface these data in a way that makes them accessible and actionable? How do we acquire and aggregate data, then reason against it to help manage populations and drive insights? Healthcare is unique but software experts have already overcome huge challenges in areas such as e-commerce and financial services to deliver a more tailored and user-friendly experience while safeguarding data privacy. In fact, the public is so used to this kind of customised intelligence that some patients...
Never before has there been a more compelling time and a more urgent need to disrupt and transform the way we delivery healthcare to the people of our planet. I am the son of a wonderfully devoted Australian country GP who later became the country surgeon in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. A father of 8, Dad was seemingly forever on-call and, with the exception of his faithful stethoscope, his scary scalpel and his trusty truck, he had absolutely zero technological assistance. No pager, no mobile phones, no EHR, no teleradiology. He was a truly old school practitioner and a mighty man, dedicated to his calling and adored by his patients. As a young lad, accompanying Dad in his old truck on long journeys late at night on those windy roads between each of the country hospitals (trying so hard to stay awake and keep my promise to Mum to make sure Dad did not fall asleep at the wheel), I knew there had to be a better, faster, safer, more effective and more efficient way of delivering healthcare. When my time came, and I followed proudly in Dad's brave footprints, I quietly committed to change the way the traditional hospital based and doctor dependent healthcare service was delivered. I got my chance years later when I set about exploring the possibility of building a simple tele-radiology system over the old 3K copper telephone system to link small isolated communities distributed over an enormous geographical area. This was not an idea borne without experience, as I had found myself performing obstetric ultrasound scans from the back of a truck in remote parts of Western Australia, in oppressive heat, shortly after completing my degree and qualifying as a radiologist. Working with pregnant mums to be in an aboriginal community,...
Gaming and simulations can engage surgeons in ways that traditional medical education does not, says Professor Marlies Schijven who has shown the power of play in improving surgical skills. As a surgeon, game developer and app inventor – among other things – she is also on the cutting edge of using wearable technologies in the operating room and was the first person to live-stream abdominal surgery on YouTube via Google Glass. What is serious gaming? Serious gaming uses the principles of playful technology and the power of play to get an educational message across without people feeling as though they are being taught. The key is to wrap educational content into the game, in such a way that it is not perceived as ‘homework’. How can gaming and simulations help surgeons? This approach can be used to train anyone - but it has great potential in teaching surgical skills. It is very important to have game designers involved in developing the games otherwise it will just become another boring e-learning module or tedious task. I have shown that, compared to traditional training methods, well-designed simulations and games actually make for better, more competent surgeons. How did you become interested in working with game designers? For me, it was natural. Before I studied medicine, I studied for some time in a design academy so I can pretty much understand the way designers think and I value their approach. Good serious games are developed by good designers in collaboration with content experts. You have also been experimenting with wearable devices in the operating theatre. What do these technologies do for surgeons? To give one example, you often need to control computers or other devices whilst performing surgery. If this means typing on a keyboard or touching a mouse, you would have to...
Why do we use more advanced monitoring tools in our daily lives than we do in biomedical research? Every scientist knows that discoveries from biomedical research are useless if they cannot be replicated. Yet, in a recent survey by Nature , 70% of researchers indicated that they have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments. That’s an astonishing number, especially if you think of the billions of euros that are then being wasted. Back in 2011, I was running a biotech startup that was involved in a European project to filter stem cells from umbilical cord blood, and then expand them to high numbers while suppressing the differentiation. We had very promising results. As part of the project, we were culturing patient stems cells and - as anyone with experience of cell culture knows - they need to be fed sugar and nutrients regularly. Indeed, they need a lot of care and attention, and the normal practice was to check them twice a day – even on weekends. Unfortunately, one Sunday, the cells were not checked and fed due to a personal emergency of a staff member. Normally this would not pose a big problem – the cells were usually split to a new flask with medium on Monday. However, on that occasion the lack of feeding did cause a problem. The flask grew confluent and the cells were lost, along with much of the work leading up to that point. We had a disappointing meeting with all project members, and I remember that on the way back I was driving and my colleague was working on his smartphone. I asked what he was doing and he said he just changed the climate control in his house and...