Bringing secure digital healthcare data to patients and clinicians

Apps are changing how healthcare is delivered – but the focus is always on the individual patient, not the technology

Orla Cafferty, chief executive, Datascan Document Services: ‘We digitise the legacy records and add up-to-date correspondence, such as test results, and provide them to the back-end.’ Picture: Fennells

At the heart of any successful healthcare app, be that on a mobile device or in a hospital, lies complex information about an individual: diagnostics and test results, notes and historical records. At the end of the day, everything in healthcare is about a person.

Datascan Document Services works with app providers to ensure that data which would otherwise be left siloed, or even on paper, is secure and available to both patients and clinicians.

Orla Cafferty, chief executive, Datascan, said that despite the impression some may have of the high-tech nature of healthcare, traditional bureaucratic bottlenecks and roadblocks still need to be overcome.

“Lots of the healthcare apps live in your mobile phone, and when they get busy they get challenges. The big challenge is how to manage patients as individuals, so it’s not a tech challenge so much,” Cafferty said.

The core of Datascan’s work is ensuring that crucial data is securely acquired and transmitted to all relevant parties and to apps that a patient can share with healthcare professionals.

“Test results and other data don’t automatically go into the apps. We help to get it in there and it will seem seamless from the patient’s point of view,” she said.

Datascan, already known for digitising historical GP records, is therefore in the perfect position to help with health apps and ensure they have access to relevant data, both legacy and recent.

“We digitise the legacy records and add up-to-date correspondence, such as test results, and provide them to the back-end,” said Cafferty.

When it comes to the tech used in healthcare apps, Cafferty said that there is a real opportunity to offer benefits to patients, but developers cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Consumers today expect a seamless user experience, she said, giving the example of how airline Ryanair’s app not only allows users to book flights and store bookings but also retains passport information, thus making it a one-stop shop.

Healthcare apps should demonstrate the same progress, she said: “People get fed up with apps that don’t move on with the times. This is part of the user experience.”

‘This day forward’ approach

Datascan is also working with a major technology company that has been contracted to upgrade and operate the IT systems in use for managing patients in a private hospital.

While legacy documents are being digitised, a line was drawn in the sand using a ‘this day forward’ approach. In essence, after a set date, all patient information was natively digital. Datascan then came in to make that legacy data useful.

“They put a mini business unit in the hospital, and from this day forward everything is digital. We support that by taking the legacy records, whether they are in hard copy or they are in a silo of information in an old software package. We reindex them, making them ready to migrate into the new systems,” said Cafferty.

This is an example of the future in healthcare technology, she said, and it is being driven by the needs of patients.

“People have the expectation that they can use an app to make an appointment. It’s more patient-driven than being all about the hospital. It’s all part of a move towards electronic health records. They are definitely coming. The National Children’s Hospital has already made their decision on the package they will use,” she said.

And yet, in the context of a country where med tech represents more than €13 billion in annual exports, the Irish healthcare system lags many of its European peers in the application of technology.

“There’s work to do,” Cafferty said. “A unique patient identifier would be a start. We work with a lot of GPs and they’re using several different patient information packages, each providing a different number.”

This creates obvious possibilities for misidentification and other problems, so introducing a standardised unique patient identifier would greatly simplify the situation and create opportunities for more integrated healthcare technology.

“It would just make things much easier,” she said.