ICT in Healthcare projects: Expertise without borders

International cooperation can support digital transformation in healthcare in many ways. However, healthcare is special when it comes to digital transformation.

A global industry in a locally regulated and locally managed service domain

While ICT is probably the most global industry on Earth, with global supply chains, global players and global standards, healthcare is still very „local” as a service – local processes, local protocols and local culture.

In many ways Healthcare applies global standards and best practices (people tend to have similar health challenges around the world). However, local regulatory and management practices can be very different, as well as protocols, administration or even financial background.

Global technology now has the power to penetrate local healthcare systems. Global IT providers co-operate with clinicians and academic experts, often using a collaborative approach with specialists to support this process. Therefore, technology and best practice is now available across various countries and industries.

The patient – acting as a customer, though more vulnerable

We should not forget about the consumer. The consumer is called „the patient” in this case.

Patients are more vulnerable than the average customer, as their situation is very special, and they are often not in a situation to properly assess their status, have options and make a fully informed decision. However, the patients now tend to have expectations, which come from customer experience in other service industries: personalisation, user experience, information at his/her fingertips, even gamification and empowerment. This is the journey that we are now embracing in healthcare.

Too busy to embrace innovation? Too busy to save time and resources?

Healthcare is SPECIAL. Any good healthcare specialist I know (in any country) is overloaded with work. AND they feel there are more innovations out there from innovators than they can possibly absorb – some examples might be new innovations in diagnostic imaging, robot-assisted surgery tools, using AI in patient data analysis and many more.

We exhibited this year at the Dementia and Nursing Care Show in Birmingham. I met several health specialists and experienced care managers. My overall experience was that many of them feel somewhat uncomfortable with technology. They feel they lack knowledge and experience, while learning these would require even more resources. However, technology is there to serve them – I remember when we implemented a solution for Fresenius Medical Care which saved more than 30 minutes on every single patient’s administration, not to mention increased patient safety as technology reduced the risk of human errors. It was about real impact for the patient and the staff.

Safety comes first

Healthcare is about patient safety. Not a single innovation can be implemented unless it is proved to be absolute safe. This may lead to slow decision making processes – in a very fast changing tech environment.

Technology also raises several NEW questions related to healthcare: shall we use robots to combat loneliness? Is it OK to give patients tools to self-manage their condition? Can we trust software to classify diagnostic images to support decision making of radiologists?

Startups and innovations in the spotlight

The good news is that current innovation trends encourage large tech companies and small innovators to contribute to our collective digital health future. This means more attention, acceptance and funding all around the world. Institutions and governments identified opportunities in digital transformation in healthcare: Germany has passed a law to acknowledge digital treatments: the E-Health Act was followed by the Digital Care Act. Prescription of digital tools such as health bands is now part of treatment options. This trend is also being seen in the UK.

Interoperability, cloud environments and 4G, 5G networks can support this process – enabling global solutions to be used in local healthcare. (Just a few examples: DICOM files can now travel a bit easier than before, services from the cloud give fast and seamless access to applications and data, while less physical travel is required to perform technical support tasks.)

We need this computing capacity to analyse the aggregated health data, by health imaging tools or IoT widgets or collected in patient records. The magic is in the relationships! Scientists can find new information and solutions just by connecting the dots and reveal relationships too complex for a human eye or the human brain.

Share your experience with us

I am more than interested in hearing some of your views.

Does anyone have direct experience with….

  • Digital transformation projects and challenges in Health?
  • Do you have any direct experience as a PATIENT who actually knew that it would have been possible to personalise their treatment if data is used more effectively?
  • Does anyone have experience with unused „data silos” or important data that is not used to provide better treatment? (Just think about smart wearables, as data is often NEVER shown to a doctor.)
  • Any IT specialists struggling with specific challenges of healthcare? (Regulatory/GDPR? Clinical testing? Specific patient groups with cognitive difficulties? Interoperability issues? Just to name a few we have already seen in NETIS.)
  • Anyone who thinks the solution does exist…but there is not enough time, money or knowledge to implement it? (It may be easier and cheaper than you think, and can bring very, very tangible results.)

These are all issues which are challenging, however, not impossible to solve.

International collaboration does matter – and can make a real difference

It might be the case that if you are a clinician, your International clinical peers can share with you successes in Australia/Germany/Estonia… If you are a health IT specialist, it may just happen that your perfect Machine Learning Expert sits only 2 hours’ travel and a phone call away. They may be currently working on a Horizon2020 project reflecting YOUR problem. Global talent pools can provide the best value for money –while YOUR expertise may be sought somewhere in Spain, US or Hungary – if you are connected to the right channels.

Thinking global (or at least at the European level) can also be useful when you have a short term project, if you need some rare skills or your budget is very limited. (If you face ALL these at the same time, you may be in trouble. Heading to Mars having only training shoes and a bicycle?)

Your startup can scale up with international talent, while you can outsource some non-core, repetitive but important tasks.

Let me illustrate this with our recent project for Medway Community Healthcare, which had a telecare solution for elderly households. They could maintain this with our team’s help and do necessary updates (including a complete redevelopment of a particular application) as all tasks could be safely done remotely, within a tight budget.

Forms of international collaboration: from outsourcing to team augmentation

Some of you may not be absolutely familiar with some forms of international collaborations but let’s quickly go through a few examples.

You OUTSOURCE if there is a particular task to be performed, especially in a market which is not your home market, when the activity is not your core activity but important. It can also be a cost saving exercise (some countries like Hungary may have excellent technical talent pools, and much lower cost of living, with a similar average living standards like in the UK) but again I’d say value for money is key. Outsourcing is focusing on deliverables, while the team is not managed directly, and communication between the entities can be formal and standardised.

Partnerships are perfect when the organisations have complimentary skills and services. You may need us if you are a mobile expert, but need a company with Microsoft expertise, and we may need you if you are a professional medical content provider.

If you have a startup, you could benefit from team augmentation – this gives more security than freelancers and more industry knowledge than agencies. It might be useful to know that in the case of team augmentation your extended team works ONLY on your project.

Avoid traps and mitigate risks

Be careful when you are offered a service which is Cheap, High Quality AND Fast – to avoid any disappointment. You may also find out that you and your partner use exactly the same term but you mean completely different things by it (you may test this by defining „server”). However, you can use standards and some main principles of Accessibility, Sustainability and Compatibility to mitigate such risks.

At the very end, where does NETIS fit in this puzzle? We have 10 years’ experience in healthcare ICT, product development and infrastructure support and integration.  We are committed to patient empowerment and patient education, data-driven healthcare as well as supporting the British economy and the United Kingdom. We trust our organisations can collaborate well together – and hope to meet our potential international partners in one-to-one meetings or smaller and larger events related to digital healthcare. Progress comes through trusted collaboration and we hope that our workshop in London was- the first step towards new relationships.

This is an edited version of my presentation delivered on 17 October, 2019, at the Hungarian Embassy in London, for a professional audience involved in digital healthcare. You may visit Prezi for the associated slides and images used in the presentation.

Author: Eva Lajko

How blockchain technology can transform the healthcare sector?

Blockchain technology is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions efficiently, permanently, and in a verifiable manner. This technology is used across many industries, mainly the financial sector, food safety, logistics, but also in healthcare.

Blockchain technology reduces complexity, enables easy collaboration, and creates secure and immutable information. This technology has the potential to transform health care, placing the patient at the center of the health care system, and increasing the security, privacy, and interoperability of health data.

But how blockchain technology works?

The technology works on three major principles that are not new at all.

  • Private key cryptography – Data is secured, but transactions are open on the network.
  • Distributed ledgers – Usually, members of the chain maintain copies of the ledgers. Moreover, all changes made in the ledgers are reflected within minutes, and with the advance of the technology, this timeframe will drop to seconds. Public ledgers are available to the members of the chain, no matter if they maintain copies of the ledgers or merely initiate transactions.
  • Authentication – First each new transaction is authenticated, and then ledgers are added to the chain. Algorithms evaluate and verify all the proposed transactions. The information would be encrypted, digitally signed and stored, thereby sealing its authenticity.

What could this technology provide?

Blockchain could provide a new model for health information exchanges by making electronic medical records more efficient and secure. Since records are spread across a network of replicated databases, blockchain provides security benefits for the massive amounts of data that health-care organizations are responsible for managing. Enhanced medical research and simplified financial management are one of the technology’s opportunities.

Blockchain technology can change how healthcare functions and remove frauds from the system. It can also cut operational costs, optimize how data storage, and even eliminate duplicate work. One more thing that blockchain can help with is improving transparency. All this is possible precisely because how this technology is designed to enable anyone to validate data and preserve it for others use.

For further information, please check our video here.

Author: Laszlo Varga

ALSAD Project: Artificial Intelligence algorithm supports the nutrition of people living with kidney disease and diabetes

On June 30 2019, the project of “ALSAD (Automated LifeStyle ADvice) Healthcare Solution ” was completed by the cooperation of NETIS Informatics Ltd. and Insiron Informatics Ltd. The next phase is to enter to the international market.

The application was tested by patients with diabetes, insulin resistance, kidney disease and kidney transplanted, and by their doctors and dietitians, which makes easier the daily, personalized diet planning: with the help of artificial intelligence, the designing of menus is based on the users own personal and laboratory data and dietary goals.

The personalized content recommendations help patients to better understand and improve their health condition. The professional content of the system was compiled with the help of expert medical teams.

The integration of activity data is supported by the integration of two popular smart devices, FitBit and Garmin.

The system is also recommended for healthy people, the system can help with the day-to-day prevention that can reduce the risk of future diseases.

The project with a total budget of 328.148.236 HUF was supported by the National Research, Development and Innovation Fund’s “Support of business RDI activities (VÁLLALATI KFI_16)” program.

Medicine and Informatics: together for patients with dementia

The Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease mostly affects the elderly. In Europe, half of the people over 80 are living in their own home, so if they lose their autonomy due to dementia, they need immediate intervention from their environment.

Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as other cognitive and dementia-related illnesses directly affect 44 million people worldwide. However, if we include their relatives and those who are helping them in the social and health care system, we get a much larger number. So it is a disease that has both medical and social significance.

The disease has significant costs. Dementia-related expenditure in the European Union reaches 0.5% of GDP. Though developed countries are spending more and more money on curing these diseases and slowing down the progress of them, they have not achieved a breakthrough. It is predicted that the number of patients with dementia will double by 2030 and increase by three times by 2050.

It is understandable, in addition to finding appropriate remedies, an early diagnosis of disease, and to keep the autonomy and quality of life is becoming increasingly important. In this task, solutions that integrating IT and healthcare methods based on scientific surveys have a prominent role. The ICT4Life project has been founded to design and support these solutions.

Goals of the ICT4Life project’s development:

  • Continuously monitoring the patient so early alerting and immediate intervention can be made;
  • Preventing home-based accidents (such as dropping), social isolation, depression and other emotional difficulties as well as drug treatment problems;
  • Maintaining the patient’s independence, security and social relations;
  • Supporting caregivers and reduce emotional stress.

The pilot in Hungary

We are proud that besides France and Spain, in March 2018, the first pilot project could be launched in Hungary, where, besides monitoring patients, a number of support services can be tested by the participants, some of which has been developed by NETIS.

Five patients of a day care center in Pécs have received an electronic bracelet that collects and transducers information of its wearer’s movement and behavior by sensors to evaluate the data. With this information we are able to get to know the needs of the patients so we can help and provide them solutions more effectively.

About the ICT4Life project

The ICT4Life is a three-year R&D project, sponsored by the European Horizon2020 program with 9 organizations from 6 European countries (Artica Telemedicina, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Asociación Parkinson Madrid, University of Maastricht, CERTH, E-Seniors, HOPE, NETIS, Pécsi Tudományegyetem), who are established the ICT4Life IT platform.

This platform is aimed to support people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other dementia and their environment (including family members, doctors or social workers). Its primary goal is to strengthen the patients’ autonomy and improve their life quality, while their environment is supported by IT tools in many areas.

Author: Eva Lajko

Coming soon: Workshop in London

After fundamental changes in several sectors and industries, digital transformation now means rapid changes in healthcare.  Digital treatments, automated patient education, big data analysis or sensor-supported patient monitoring are all part of the change.

Except for a few cases, most of the changes seem to be technology-led, while it would be crucial to involve medical professionals, patients and health service provider organisations to fully benefit from what technology can offer.

We are tech companies, working closely with industry, health providers, researchers, doctors and other health specialists to develop solutions which provide real support and assistance both for patients and medical pros. We need an active discussion with users and specialists to have a real understanding about needs and elements where we can add value – from reducing time of patient education and prevention or offering fine-tuned, personalised diet suggestions for those with a serious chronic condition to reliable solutions to fight hospital superbugs or super-fast and super-reliable CT segmentation.

As an industry professional, you might already be aware what digital technologies can offer in healthcare and would be open for a discussion with tech professionals how blockchain, mobile technologies, image  and data analysis or digital patient assistance/digital treatments can improve the efficiency of medical diagnoses and treatment.

Come and join our workshop at the prestigious location of the Hungarian Embassy in central London on 17 October 2019 to discuss various aspects of digital health technologies to support UK and European healthcare and patient safety together. 

Join the event

Due to seating and security limits, the event is invitation-only, however, if interested to attend, please contact us directly if an invitation can be issued.

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