Getting It Right with Technology Enabled Care (and Checking My “Pings” at the Dinner Table)

I’m guilty. I sometimes use my smartphone at dinner...or lunch...or at the breakfast table. Whether I’m mid-bite or mid-conversation, my Apple watch vibrates and I feel compelled to see what news the digital ethos has delivered. I also have a rare health condition called Nutcracker Syndrome (NCS), and often those pings come from folks in my Facebook support group. Perhaps the message is someone searching for answers, a request for the names and locations of doctors who are familiar with the disorder, or a medical update from a group member who has undergone surgery. These “pings” are reminders that I’m not alone in my quest for answers about NCS.

Neither am I alone in my use of technology for health and wellness:

  • 19% of smartphone users have one or more health apps on their phone. (Source: Demi & Cooper Advertising)

  • 54% of patients are very comfortable with their providers seeking advice from online communities to better treat their conditions. (Source: Mediabistro)

  • 60% of doctors say social media improves the quality of care delivered to patients. (Source: Demi & Cooper Advertising)

As you can see, patients have a healthy appetite for web and social media-based knowledge when it comes to their personal care. How can the healthcare community provide the information they seek? Experts focused on this question during UK e-Health Week 2017, where they launched a Technology Enabled Care (TEC) support publication called "Where the click do you start?"

TEC is the application of technology services (telehealth, telecare and telecoaching) to enable patients to engage in their own healthcare digitally for better convenience, accessibility and control.

By empowering patients, healthcare professionals can spend more time with acute care patients who require greater attention. For example, Unity Health, a three-site health system located in York, adopted a web-based consultation system for low-risk patients, which allowed the group to prioritize high-risk patients by offering them 20-minute appointments and a dedicated health line. (Source: Alt Report)

The experts at UK e-Health Week 2017 emphasized that to successfully launch a TEC program as Unity Health did, health systems have to look beyond the data and the installation of a new system. They must consider the people involved in and affected by these new programs. In "Where the click do you start?" Claire Cater, founder of The Social Kinetic,  identifies “4 enablers for creating a digital NHS” that we can apply to planning any successful healthcare TEC system:

  1. Clarity – Ensure that your team is working toward a shared and understood goal. Don’t leave it to chance – make sure everyone on the team is in the know about what you wish to accomplish and what counts as success. Back it up with the “why” and the “how” to create a shared sense of purpose among team members.

  2. Leadership – Head your team with skilled, confident leaders who can influence, facilitate and connect organizations and people. In addition to possessing the appropriate knowledge and skills, leaders must also champion the team’s efforts toward achieving its goals.  

  3. Culture – Encourage the “hacker mindset” in your team, taking a bias toward action and encouraging your team to “test and learn” rather than to overthink. This only works when you accept failure as part of the process and look at it as an opportunity to learn. When something doesn’t work, “fail forward” by questioning everything about that failure and leveraging this new understanding to grow and improve your team and its efforts.

  4. Connectivity – Play connect-the-dots, examining the connectivity and interoperability between systems, data, people, skills and resources. Contemplate the connections and how they impact the overarching goals.  

With proper planning, TEC can empower patients, provide healthcare providers with vast amounts of data, and benefit the industry at large. But in order to be successful, we must remember that more important than the technologies are the people involved and the behavioural changes they will need to make. Start with the people and reap the rewards of a TEC system: more time, money and lives saved; improved quality and safety; less paperwork; empowered patients; and more time for healthcare professionals to spend with those who need them. Oh – and a greater healthcare community that answers the occasional “ping” at the dinner table.

Erin LaFavor