Throughout the pandemic, we have seen a rapid increase in the use of digital technology to deliver healthcare.
When we’re having issues with our health, as well as visiting the doctor or hospital, one option we have is purchasing over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to treat ourselves at home.
OTC drugs can be purchased without a prescription from a doctor. They tend to be affordable and have low production costs.
Health and care organisations have historically lagged behind those in other industries in making the most of digital technologies and data solutions. Yet the rapid onset and escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic has essentially forced organisations to embrace these tools to quickly adapt to new ways of working and delivering their services.
This overhaul of industry norms has led to a number of key questions: how widespread has this adoption been? Which tools and technologies have been implemented, and how have these solutions affected staff productivity and service delivery? What will ‘stick’ after the pandemic ends and we return to some semblance of pre-COVID normality?
Digital technology has been poised to transform the way that healthcare is delivered. Yet uptake and implementation has been slow; in the UK alone for example, almost a quarter of hospitals still use paper rather than electronic records.
But when COVID-19 hit, health systems were forced to rapidly adapt and use technology to deliver care remotely, where face to face appointments were no longer possible. While it’s impossible to predict when the COVID crisis will be over, will remote care become the ‘new normal’ post-pandemic? And if digital-first health technologies are here to stay, what are the implications for patients?
Newly launched IGHI research, supported by Imperial’s COVID-19 Response Fund, will explore these important questions.
As the global healthcare community has been consumed with managing the COVID-19 pandemic, a wave of cyber-attacks against healthcare organisations has emerged. Cybercriminals and hackers are upping the ante in creating more havoc and exploiting the fear and confusion that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it. The threat is global: Interpol even issued a warning signalling the need for healthcare organisations to be vigilant and aware of the heightened risk of cyber-attacks.
‘Big Data’ has become a bit of a buzzword. But for us at the Big Data and Analytical Unit, it’s our bread and butter.
The Big Data and Analytical Unit (BDAU) is the health data hub in IGHI’s Centre for Health Policy. We’re a multidisciplinary team that collaborates with clinicians, academics and data scientists across the College (and beyond!) to support improvements in health through better use of data. But what exactly does that mean?
Here’s a typical day for the BDAU to show you what that looks like in practice.
Taking medicines is the most common way that we attempt to stave off or treat illness. Every day people all across the world use medicines to help improve their health and wellbeing. They’ve transformed the treatment and outlook for many diseases, helping people live longer and healthier lives. Yet medicines are also a major risk to patients’ safety. And this risk is not only a result of drugs’ side effects.
Mistakes in the treatment process can also lead to patient harm. Errors can happen at any stage of the pathway; when professionals prescribe, dispense and administer drugs. In England alone, it’s estimated that over 230 million such errors occur every year, causing hundreds of deaths and contributing to thousands more.
Our National Health Service owns some of the most comprehensive patient data sets across the globe. This makes these data a very valuable asset – not just as a springboard for improving health and care through learning from the data, but also in terms of the potential for financial return. It is critical that if the NHS shares this data with companies, in an appropriate and secure way, it also receives a fair share of this financial return.
These are arguments we make in a new article published in Lancet Digital Health.
By Gianluca Fontana, Senior Policy Fellow and Director of Operations, Centre for Health Policy, IGHI
In my first job out of university, I was a management consultant. That led me to work on glamorous and intellectually stimulating activities such as figuring out how to distribute fresh fish in a supermarket display to maximise sales. But I’ve always had a passion for healthcare. So through the years, I was able to get myself involved with much more interesting projects.
By Dr Ana Luisa Neves, General Practitioner and IGHI Research Fellow
The promise of healthcare data is staggering – and now, we have the information and tools to use it effectively that we’ve never had before.
Electronic health records can contribute to making life-altering changes in patient education and treatment. We’re increasingly realising their potential as a powerful resource for researchers and policymakers. Applying big data analytics in electronic health datasets can help us better understand patient needs. We can identify underserved or excluded groups and therefore contribute to delivering safer, better, and more patient-centred care.
However, much still needs to be done to increase the availability of healthcare data before these goals can be realised.