CEO of New Fields Technologies, with 20 years experience in leading large health and human services transformation projects.
Even in today’s information age, with considerable advancements in technology, we continue to face significant medical risks globally. The Covid-19 pandemic provided a very real example of this with the challenges we faced worldwide in responding to it properly. More broadly, medical risks come in many forms and can have a significant impact on individuals, communities and entire nations.
Over the past four years, our company has had the opportunity to do significant work in healthcare, particularly in the Caribbean, where our digital health platform is now in use in 27 healthcare facilities, some of which we have implemented in partnership with the Telecommunication Services of Trinidad and Tobago.
This has provided us with insight into the challenges faced by healthcare organizations and the continued prevalence of medical risks that impact people’s lives. In developing regions such as the Caribbean, these risks are often amplified by a lack of access to quality healthcare, inadequate infrastructure and limited resources.
One of the biggest medical risks in the Caribbean is the prevalence of infectious diseases. This was exemplified during the Covid-19 pandemic, which heavily impacted the Caribbean, with many countries reporting high numbers of cases. The spread of infectious diseases is often exacerbated by a lack of access to healthcare and limited resources for testing and treatment.
Another major medical risk in the Caribbean is the high rate of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. These conditions are often linked to lifestyle factors such as poor diet and lack of physical activity and can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. In addition, chronic diseases place a heavy burden on healthcare systems, as they require ongoing treatment and management.
Proper use of technology to provide effective digitization has the potential to reduce some medical risks in developing regions such as the Caribbean. A major challenge that the region has faced is in implementing electronic health records (EHRs) properly. Unfortunately, most patient records are maintained on paper, and the few healthcare facilities that have taken up digitization are simply scanning paper medical files as images, which cannot be analyzed, searched or processed electronically and are also not user-friendly for either patients or medical practitioners.
Implementing EHRs at a mass scale is an important technological advancement for the region, as it can provide the foundation for applying multiple additional technologies that can benefit patients and medical professionals.
One of the technologies that EHRs enable is telemedicine, one of the most significant ways digitization can help reduce health risks. Telemedicine allows doctors and patients to communicate remotely, reducing the need for in-person visits and, thus, the risk of exposure to infectious diseases such as Covid-19. This technology allows patients to consult with healthcare providers from the comfort of their own homes. It also enables healthcare providers to reach patients in remote or underserved areas where there is internet access and devices available to connect.
EHRs are essential for telemedicine because doctors and medical practitioners can only provide remote treatment effectively and coordinate a patient’s care if they have access to their medical records. This is possible with user-friendly and interoperable EHRs that can securely record and share medical information with the patient and the multiple healthcare organizations that may treat the patient.
When properly implemented, these digital records can also improve the accuracy and accessibility of patient information, reducing the risk of medical errors and improving the efficiency of care. EHRs also make it easier for healthcare providers to share patient information, which can help improve patient outcomes.
Wearable technology, such as fitness trackers and smartwatches, can also help individuals monitor their health and identify potential health risks. These devices can track a person’s activity levels, heart rate and sleep patterns, providing valuable insights into a person’s overall health. Wearable technology also becomes truly effective when it is integrated with EHRs, allowing healthcare providers to access real-time data and respond quickly to changes in a patient’s condition.
Remote monitoring is another way in which digitization can help reduce health risks. Digital technology integrated with EHRs can enable remote monitoring of patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, allowing healthcare providers to respond quickly to changes in a patient’s condition and reduce the risk of complications. This can help improve patient outcomes and reduce the need for hospital visits.
Digitization can also automate repetitive tasks and reduce the number of human errors, which can help improve patient safety. Automated systems can improve healthcare efficiency, allowing providers to focus on providing high-quality care to patients. Artificial intelligence-based diagnostic tools can analyze data in EHRs to assist physicians with diagnosing health conditions and identifying potential health risks to provide timely treatment to patients.
In conclusion, digitization can play an important role in reducing medical risks. Telemedicine, wearable technology, remote monitoring and automated systems are just a few examples of how digitization can improve patient outcomes when they are brought together by a comprehensive EHR, which serves as a foundational platform to facilitate and enable effective digitization. As technology continues to advance, digitization will become increasingly important for improving healthcare, particularly in developing regions such as the Caribbean, where it is important to make efficient use of the limited resources that are available.
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