Is our society ready for sharing health information online?

25/06/2014
by Dagmar Volfova in General

As the members of the healthcare community in London, we discovered the activities of London Connect which “aims to improve the care patients receive by improving the way people – patients, the public, service professionals, academics, commissioners, policy makers and industry – interact with and use information”. A few times a year the London Connect team organizes events where interesting and important discussions happen. After attending one of these, focused on online records, I decided to share the experiences and thoughts we gained in FetView on this topic via the London Connect blog:

Is our society ready for sharing health infomation online?

I entered the world of trying to improve healthcare not that long ago. However, in this short period of time I have discovered a number of obstacles the industry is facing, especially in terms of online technology adoption. As we know, it is not really a problem of the technology itself as there are already many existing solutions. The real problem for me seems to lie in the willingness of stakeholders to become involved with online technology as well as any related legal issues.

In our project called FetView, we provide online software solution which enables specialists to transfer images and measurements from their ultrasound devices and to view them on their computers and other devices and to create reports which can then be shared with their patients and colleagues. Patients access them via separate online accounts providing unlimited access to their health records.

During our work we are in touch with both patients and care providers on a daily basis, and we can see several recurring themes:

1. Many care providers perceive new technology in general as something too complicated to actually try even though, in reality, the benefits such as increased efficiency, decreased costs and satisfied patients, would far more exceed the initial time (and money) they would have to invest in order to learn how to use it. One way to overcome this barrier is to involve the end users in the development to ensure it will serve them in the best way and will be easy to use. Duh! You may think… But you would be surprised how many projects develop solutions which either do not solve any real problem of the end users or do not respect their workflow and the level of their technology literacy.

2. Many patients as well as care providers are concerned about the security of online systems without thinking about it rationally. Yet when asked, some confess that they share examination findings via e-mail, which is probably one of the most unsecured ways, especially compared to systems like online banking or FetView, which use the highest security standards. Therefore, in addition to putting security first when developing a new solution, clearly explaining and highlighting the benefits of online systems to the end users should help to overcome the fear.

3. Technology adoption is further slowed down by the fact that institutions and care providers are unsure of the existence and interpretation of laws that would protect all stakeholders and ensure high standards of provided solutions. However, as we have accepted Facebook or Google, the time must come when we accept new industries such as healthcare going online. In most of cases, the appropriate laws were created or adjusted after certain situations had arisen. That is why we, as solution providers, cannot hold back and wait; we actually have to create these situations so that we help to move things forward.

To answer the initial question, despite the technology being ready, the mindsets and laws are not fully ready yet to adopt online technologies in industries such as healthcare. In this case, it is our responsibility to disrupt the mindsets and laws to contribute to the positive development of our society. Because without conflict, there is no progress.

Finally, I would be interested in hearing what barriers you encounter and how you have managed to solve them. And if you are not sure, a good way to start is to join London Connect – meeting care providers, solutions providers, patients and many more is the right place to trigger the progress!

Read the article directly on the London Connect Blog.

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