The new era of healthcare

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This article is part of our Future Led event series, where our speakers challenge big ideas and their real-world impact. This event focused on the new era of healthcare and how we can progress towards a connected, patient-centred care model. 

 

Australia’s healthcare system, like many around the world, is at a critical juncture. The challenges of increased levels of chronic disease, pressures of an ageing population and inequitable access to health services require a shift in the way we design our healthcare system.   

Technology provides a feasible way forward. Innovations like quantum medicine, robotics, AI-streamlined healthcare, synthetic biology and digital therapeutics can be embedded into digital services and systems and make a significant difference.  

Furthering a personalised and connected approach to patient care, the Australian Government’s 2023-2033 Digital Health Blueprint for Australia focuses on placing consumers at the centre of their health and wellbeing journey. It emphasises the need to create more affordable, convenient and accessible healthcare options that are equitable for all Australians. 

Within this context, our panel discussed how we can work together to accelerate progress towards a truly connected, patient-centred healthcare journey for everyone. 

Joining our panel was:  

  • Dr Dimity Dornan, Founder and Chair at Bionics Gamechangers Australia 
  • Dr James Fielding, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Audeara 
  • Vivienne Neilan, Director of Innovation at the National Injury Insurance Scheme (NIISQ) Agency 
  • Dr John Tellam, ED Senior House Officer, Transformation Advisory at Queensland Health 
  • Fiona Armstrong, CEO & Partner at Liquid (Moderator) 

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L-R: Dr John Tellam, Vivienne Neilan, Dr James Fielding, Dr Dimity Dornan, Fiona Armstrong. 

 

Improving communication is essential

As a doctor working in a busy emergency department, John noted that communication between clinician, patient and their families and carers is paramount. 

"The role of a doctor has changed from being not just a scientist, technician or analyst. A doctor is now also a translator between the technical side of medicine and the clinical side, communicating in a way that resonates and is tailored to a patient’s level of health literacy."

As Director of Innovation at NIISQ Agency, Vivienne works with participants who have suffered catastrophic injuries and require holistic lifelong support and care.  

In her experience, the reality of patient-centred care is often a disjointed, siloed experience for the participant, particularly when communication fails.  

"When we say we’re going to put people at the centre of their care, that language is still quite disempowering. Participants feel like they’re in the eye of the storm, with all this madness swirling around them. 

"Participants often speak about the trauma of having to repeat their stories time and time again."

To quiet the storm and empower patients, we need improved communication between not only clinician and patient, but between all health professionals involved in their care.  

 

Enabling education and health literacy 

Having spent her career revolutionising implantable hearing technology such as the bionic ear and other devices, Dimity made the critical point that multidisciplinary collaboration and education are key to transforming the lives of the people we’re trying to help. 

"This is the century for empowerment, and empowerment means being able to share our knowledge."

"I love it when patients have come in and Googled stuff," John stated. Patients who have been proactive in educating themselves about their condition means he has a starting point to work from.  

"I think about how much time we have to spend with patients – which is very little in the public system – and how we make that interaction really valuable. Building up the health literacy of patients will be extremely beneficial."

 

Supporting the model with innovation

As Founder and CEO of Audeara, a global hearing health leader, James has vast experience in utilising medical invention and innovation to support a patient-centred model of care. 

He stated that in a publicly funded health system, the juncture that unlocks a patient-centred model is the capacity to translate traditionally high-cost, precision medicine and create accessible technologies at scale.  

And this isn’t pie in the sky thinking, but rather the reality we are living. 

"With the advent of new technologies and ways to interact, you can create enough care opportunities using low-cost deployable tech to make [a person-centred care model] a reality.  

"We see those realities now and we simply need to do more of them, and give people more advocacy to choose these tools. The more people that can leverage the tech, the faster we’ll get there."

Vivienne said that patients are already taking control of their health through digital technologies and will demand the acceleration and adoption of more digital tools.  

"As a patient you have ChatGPT at your fingertips and you can Google your symptoms. You can have 10 different apps to monitor your health.  

"So, when you go into your GP or hospital and your doctor doesn’t know anything about you, when you’ve given this information time and time again, this change will come from the people. People will say 'this isn’t good enough, things need to change'." 

 

Improving the experience for everyone

We heard many stories about families and loved ones feeling like they weren’t seen or heard by doctors and treating teams. 

"To make that situation better, [people] need to advocate for themselves. I know it’s sad that it falls back on us, but because that experience is unique to us, we need to be giving feedback and communicating that this is not okay," Vivienne said. 

James explained that this experience can be commonplace in a clinical setting. "From a doctor’s perspective, it protects you to be disconnected from the person you’re trying to help, because sometimes it’s overwhelming. It’s easier to be disconnected in a room of suffering."

He added that while this may be reality, it’s disempowering for the patient. To correct this, you need key influential people within hospital settings to drive behavioural change. 

"In my view, be better or get out. Often, it’s the education of the people who can’t connect that needs to improve drastically."

While there are many factors contributing to negative healthcare experiences for patients, families and loved ones, John said that doctors need to prioritise spending time with their patients.  

"It’s so busy working on the wards, all the time. You’re running around and you get in process mode, and sometimes you need to re-focus on the patient, what they need, and who the family members are."

John wants to see technology augment the clinical process so that doctors are doing less low-value tasks and can use that time to focus on medicine and the patients in front of them.  

"If we can create digital systems that do that administrative legwork for us, we can get back to actual front-facing clinical medicine and provide patient-centred care."

 

The importance of prevention in balancing costs

One of the most significant challenges in delivering patient-centred care is the cost associated with it. To overcome this, we need a model that is focused on preventative care. 

James used the example of our devices, and how putting technology in everyone’s pocket helps to build awareness and encourage a preventative health mindset. 

"It’s not about finding out what’s wrong with you, but giving you the best chance to understand yourself.  

"The more we can get people aware that being healthy and staying healthy is the most cost-effective way to manage their health, the better."

 

Data, faith and trust

Finally, we turned our discussion to centralised data and related themes of trust and faith. While we may have had our trust shaken in recent times, the importance of patient advocacy in owning their data was at the forefront of the conversation.  

James told us we can feel more confident in controlling and protecting our data, and  advocating for sharing our data is a step in the right direction. 

Vivienne echoed this sentiment, stating that patients expect greater access to their health information and that it supports their ability to make informed decisions about their healthcare journey. 

"People have their own thoughts about how they want to share their data, and you might find that if you give them some ownership it might break down some of those barriers to trust."

 


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