Workforce Readiness and Digital Health Integration

Workforce Readiness and Digital Health Integration

Buddhika Senanayake (Centre for Health Services Research, The University of Queensland, Australia), Nirupama Tyagi (Centre for Health Services Research, The University of Queensland, Australia), Xiaoyun Zhou (Centre for Health Services Research, The University of Queensland, Australia) and Sisira Edirippulige (Centre for Health Services Research, The University of Queensland, Australia)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3274-4.ch010

Abstract

The benefits that digital health may offer include clinical, administrative, research, and educational. Research shows that if used in the right circumstances, digital health may increase access to healthcare services, improve clinical outcomes, safety, and quality of care. Digital health also has the potential to improve organisational efficiencies by reducing duplication and unnecessary diagnostic testing. From a healthcare consumer perspective, there is an expectation that healthcare services need to be provided in a more flexible and cost-effective way as in other spheres such as banking, commerce, and media. This is another important driver for consideration to integrate digital health in healthcare services. As digital health continues to be used in routine healthcare services, practitioners may require new knowledge, skills, and competencies to make the best use of this innovative method. Education and training relating to digital health have been recognised as a priority for developing the future healthcare workforce.
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Introduction

Healthcare innovation over the last 50 years has resulted in much improved population health – people now live longer and experience a better quality of life than our ancestors, in part, to vastly improved medical diagnostics, treatment and management practices. The continuous challenge facing the business of healthcare is how to meet these expectations going forward; to continue to research and implement quality health improvements and importantly, to do so in a fiscally responsible manner (Dods et al., 2014). Patients often find it difficult to engage with care and care teams within this system. This is particularly relevant for the vulnerable, disadvantaged and geographically isolated people living in small communities, where there is little or no healthcare services available. Whether in a hospital or in the community, a patient’s care-process can transition between multiple clinicians, particularly those who are chronically ill and therefore often in and out of the hospital. In this situation, communication is often fragmented between clinicians, teams, and organisations resulting in missing, incomplete or lost information when it is needed. This results in confusion, inefficiencies, frustration and patient risk to life. One solution to this challenge is the effective provision of health-related information and communication technology to complement and potentially improve health services. This has led to a mission for digital healthcare transformation which is achieved through exploiting existing and evolving information communication technology (ICT) of healthcare providers, and the aim is to improve productivity, efficiency, and deliver better & improved healthcare to its clients.

Digital health is defined as: ‘the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for health services, including treating patients, conducting research, educating the health workforce, tracking diseases and monitoring public health (World Health Organisation, 2016). Digital health is the use of information communication technologies in healthcare services, which includes new technologies and data deriving from such technologies. In the modern world, patients’ information – their history, care plans, medication information, and test results - all of this can be digitally recorded and shared using technology. At patient-contact points, the doctor, nurse, pharmacist or allied health professional can ideally have access to the up to-date electronic patient record. Globally industries shifting towards digital service integration and knowledge driven economies. Healthcare is no different. While it is true that healthcare is lagging behind other industries, healthcare using digital health is now rapidly becoming ‘business as usual.’ To remain relevant, an understanding of how interconnected information communication technology (ICT) delivers and improves patient-centred care is now vital for all healthcare professionals.

Digital health is primarily about the use of information communication technology to improve healthcare and organisational efficiencies. It integrates the right technology, the right digital information and the right team on behalf of the patient at the right time. Thus, a skilled, motivated and capable workforce is an important element in this process. The digital health vision for improving healthcare has three core domains:

  • Increasing access to healthcare service – telehealth, telemedicine, mobile health are all branches of digital health that have the capacity to bring healthcare to the patient, rather than the patient having to travel to healthcare

  • Improving the safety and quality of care by having the right information at hand to inform clinical decision making and actively empowering and involving the patient

  • Improving efficiencies in the delivery of care – reducing duplication and unnecessary diagnostic testing so, digital health is heavily focused on systems and tools that can provide decision-makers with complete and accessible information for patients at the point of care in a secure framework. It facilitates the recording of digital data and its subsequent storage, sharing, and analysis using electronic medical records and personal health records. Digital health encompasses data, information and communication technology, and good medical practice coming together on behalf of the patient.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Electronic Health Record: Is a digital version of a patient’s paper chart. It is real-time, patient-centered records that make information available instantly and securely to authorized users.

Telemedicine: The delivery of healthcare services, where distance is a critical factor, by all healthcare professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for the continuing education of healthcare providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities.

EHealth: The use of information and communications technology in support of health and health-related fields.

Telehealth: Use of telecommunication techniques for the purpose of providing telemedicine, medical education, and health education over a distance.

MHealth: Medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and other wireless devices.

Health Informatics: The interdisciplinary study of the design, development, adoption, and application of IT-based innovations in healthcare services delivery, management, and planning.

Health System: All activities whose primary purpose is to promote, restore, and maintain health.

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