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Three things you didn’t know about health technology

You are more likely to see a unicorn, than an Australian hospital using modern technology

  • Some major hospitals are still running departments on DOS.
  • Many Doctors and nurses are still using pagers
  • Most clinics are still use paper records
  • On a patients journey through a hospital, from the Ambulance to Emergency, the wards, then discharge, their medical records often exist on an uncoordinated mess of paper and different computer systems. None of these records interface with each other. This leads to ‘information silos’, wasted clinical time and increases the risk of errors
  • Why?

Health technology is struggling to reach the hospital bedside

There is no extra money to be made in providing a ‘better quality services’ in aged care. Funding is based on bodies in beds and designated level of acuity. So there is no incentive for nursing homes to outlay Virtual Reality software to elderly people back to a past they feel comfortable with. Who is going to pay for it?

There is no funding for early identification and avoidance of future diseases. Hospitals get paid on people that come into Emergency, how sick they are and how many tests and treatments are done to them. So genetic testing that can offer a glimpse into the future risks of diseases has no purpose. Who will pay for it?

How does this work out for the average person with a chronic disease, that wants to take more control of their health?

Reason one – you will have to find the health technology you need, yourself

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You could try a Google search. But what keywords are you going to use? Healthcare? Technology? All you are likely to see is ads for health insurance and large technology companies.

There is currently no eBay or Alibaba for health technology. You might find a simple fitness or weight monitoring device on Amazon. But software to help you improve your speech after a stroke, or a smart walking frame will not be available.

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You turn to your Doctor, a trusted source of medical advice. You ask about him or her about health technology. Their response may come to you as a shock.

Like patients, if Doctors want to know anything at all about health technology, they have to resort to Google searches.

If Doctors are tech savvy, they will probably know about one or two personal-interest sites run by Doctors, that advertise a small number of diagnostic apps.

It is very unlikely that they will know about the startup and entrepreneur networks that pick up on new innovations, as they come on to market.

And they would never have the time to read through dense, industry focused hospital-technology websites.

This is why Wikihospitals was set up.

The first thing you will discover in your search for health technology, is that it’s like a unicorn.

Almost impossible to find.

Reason two – even if you find it, you will have to pay for health technology yourself

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After scouring the internet and pestering your Doctor, you finally found the app, smart device or home alert system that you need.

Congratulations.

Now, how are you going to pay for it?

Government and health insurers do not cover the vast majority of modern health technology products.

No matter how quickly they speed your recovery from a serious illness and get you back to work, or help keep you away from busy Emergency Departments and stable, in your own home.

Since World War II, healthcare has been a third party payment system. Governments and private insurers do secretive deals with large companies, then ration out their products to patients who are covered by their plans, as they see fit.

Decisions about cost and quality are not made by the end users, patients or Doctors.

Governments and insurers are passive purchasers. They can afford to sit back and ignore new health technology for as long as they wish.

They lose no money or credibility if patients health suffers because of outdated technology and the errors they cause.

They gain no money or cudos if patients health improves because they invest in new technology and reduce errors.

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The billing system for the health industry is excessively complex and does not reward better quality treatments.

Each procedure, no matter how trivial or irrelevant, results in a bill. These bills have to be checked against how much the Government and or insurer covers. Coverage changes continuously. This results in a massive paper trail.

As overall treatment payments are not bundled together, health payments can’t be linked to positive outcomes. It’s very difficult to get an overall picture of what works well and what does not.

There is no financial incentive for hospitals to improve their services.

A modern hip replacement procedure done in one hospital that results in an overnight stay for the patient and fast recovery, pays the same amount of money as an old fashioned one, that results in five days in hospital and months of recovery, with higher risks of infections and errors.

The second thing to learn, is that you will have to pay for your health technology, out of your own pocket.

No matter how much safer and more effective health technology is, if you want it the chances are you will have to pay for it yourself. Basically, you are the only one with a vested interest in staying well.

Reason three – you may have a battle on your hands, with Doctors, groups and hospitals who don’t want you to use health technology

Blog, unicorn, tug of war,

You have found an app that can predict your blood glucose levels for the next eight to ten hours.

Or you have found a surgeon that does hip replacements as a day procedure.

Perhaps your mother is now safer and dryer in her nursing home, because she is using smart incontinence pads that connect to the nurses station via cloud technology.

Or perhaps a family member who is ventilator dependent has been able to come home, and have 24 hour intensive care nursing?

You would expect others to be pleased on your behalf, wouldn’t you?

Well, you are in for a surprise!

From the well heeled consumer groups with large sponsorship deals to private specialists, the people who say they represent ‘patients’ are often suspicious of them taking control of their condition, using new technology.

The health industry is good at seeing sick people as passive victims to be saved. But not good at seeing them as pro-active consumers who can find new technology to help them return to a relatively normal life.

Having found your own health technology, and paid for it out of your own pocket, your only option may be to share your experiences on your Facebook page. Public ratings of people discussing their own experiences of health technology don’t yet exist.

The third thing you will discover is that it is very difficult to stop others being left in the dark, as you once were.

‘We are struggling to reach our customers. It’s very difficult to get Doctors to write reviews. Governments and health insurers are happy with bricks and mortar services and traditional products that cost more and do less.’

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While health technology is futuristic and full of promises, unless sellers can be connected to customers, you might be in a nursing home before you get to actually use it.

This is why Wikihospitals was set up

To make the latest health services available to everyone.

Health reform doesn’t have technology problem. In fact, technology has never been the problem in healthcare.

Health reform has a long term vision and present day business model problem.

© Wikihospitals October 2018

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