Digital transformation of the health service is happening right now

‘We have been involved in helping clinicians find new ways of delivering care during the pandemic’ says Eamonn Costello, CEO, patientMpower

20th October, 2020
Digital transformation of the health service is happening right now

What's your name and what position do you hold?

Eamonn Costello, CEO, patientMpower

What are your day to day responsibilities?

My role is to talk to patients, clinicians and healthcare transformers, to channel their needs into the vision for our business and to empower my team to execute on our vision, to be the leader in digital care in lung and kidney disease.

What is your professional background?

I originally studied electronic engineering and worked in telecoms for nearly 15 years across R&D, sales and sales management. I moved into software SaaS start-ups before deciding to move into healthcare.

How do you think the healthcare sector is coping with the Covid-19 crisis?

The healthcare service coped very well with managing the acute effects of the first wave of COVID-19 – we didn’t witness a hospital capacity crisis as occurred in other EU countries, we didn’t run out of ICU beds. But that was during a time when virtually all out-patient services were suspended, and there was a 45% reduction in patients presenting to emergency departments. That situation is not sustainable as we continue to live with this pandemic, waiting lists are now bigger than ever, and the challenge for the health service now is how to provide high quality and safe care for non-COVID patients at the same time as managing second and subsequent waves of infection.

What lasting impact do you see on healthcare delivery?

We have been involved in helping clinicians find new ways of delivering care during the pandemic – so that patients with high-risk lung conditions like cystic fibrosis don’t have to attend the hospital to have their regular lung function test. These new remote patient care pathways will have a lasting impact on the way we deliver services. It is inconceivable that patients with long-term conditions will return to the old out-patient clinic model of care – travelling significant distances, taking time off work or study, and sitting in a packed waiting room – for services they are currently receiving from home.

How do you see tech innovation transforming healthcare? What do you think will be the major breakthroughs over the next 5–10 years?

We are already working on a number of solutions which use the principles of artificial intelligence; this field will be a major breakthrough in healthcare over the next few years. The concept of artificial intelligence in healthcare may sound scary to some, but it’s important to stress that AI has the potential to aid clinical decision making – not replace it. It will enable doctors to better estimate risk and to predict health outcomes and this will mean more tailored and individualised patient care.

What do you think are the key challenges are in the digital transformation of the health service?

Digital transformation of the health service is happening right now - the challenges as such are not with the health service but with the wider technological transformation of our society. Video consultations, for example, enable higher quality patient care but due to lack of investment in broadband are not available many patients in rural areas. We need to democratise access to digital technology the same as we do other vital services like electricity or telephone communications.

What will be the leading trends in healthcare in the coming years and how will patients and providers need to adapt?

We see two major trends emerging which are interrelated; more individualisation of care and greater personal involvement in healthcare decisions. Self-management apps and high-quality internet-based patient education resources mean that patients have more access to information on their individual health status than ever before. We know from our work with advocacy groups that patients are increasingly frustrated with the current “silo” approach to healthcare, where patients see one specialist for their lung condition and another for their heart condition, even though they know one condition and its treatment can impact the other. The multidisciplinary team approach to healthcare only goes so far in enabling true individualisation of patient care, and the healthcare service will need to adapt to better meet patient’s needs in this area. We envisage that self-management apps and artificial intelligence technologies will empower both clinicians and patients to make better decisions about the holistic care of each individual.

Eamonn Costello is speaking at The Business Post’s inaugural Smart Health virtual Summit on Oct 22nd. For bookings visit www.smarthealthsummit.ie

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