Shift Towards Home Care
In the past, healthcare has often revolved around doctors and nurses, with devices and procedures designed primarily for their ease of use in a hospital setting. However, with the increasing prevalence and utilization of home health care and consumer expectations increasing (thanks to Apple), it is becoming clear that a shift towards patient-centred care is necessary to provide the best possible care.
Lessons from the COVID Pandemic
This was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic the need for patient-centred care, as the design and delivery of vaccines have often prioritized the convenience of healthcare professionals over the comfort and experience of patients.
Just one example of this is seen in the hypodermic needle. It was invented in 1953 and has seen little change in its design over the past 200 years. While it may be efficient for healthcare professionals to quickly administer vaccines, it does not provide the best experience for patients, leading to fear and reluctance towards vaccination. Alternative methods such as microneedle patches, needle-free devices and procedures to reduce needle fear have shown promise in reducing the pain and improving adoption of vaccinations, but their uptake in the healthcare sector has been limited due to the focus on designing for healthcare professionals rather than patients.
And this may seem like a small thing, but what has been horrifying is we have seen the cost of not having patient-centred care. We have seen the rising distrust and misinformation around the traditional healthcare system. Further to this
The Peterson KFF has estimated that 60% of the 6.8 million COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented with better vaccine adoption.
This emphasizes the need for a shift in healthcare design towards prioritizing the needs and experiences of patients, to ensure optimum care.
Have We Learnt Our Lesson?
But have we learned our lesson from this? Have we started adopting healthcare to be more patient-centred? Well during the pandemic, telehealth saw a rapid increase in adoption as access to in-person care was limited. However, there are now debates about the efficacy of telehealth and concerns about potential risks, such as misdiagnosis or lack of personal interaction with healthcare providers. But what has been most worrisome about the debate is the labelling of telehealth as carte blanche ‘poor medicine’ or too hard for healthcare professionals. Rather than,
‘Well this improves access to care, it’s what the patients want and health improves outcomes – how can we make it work?’
If we were focused on patient-centred care, the debate wouldn’t be ‘should we turn off telehealth?’ The debate would be – ‘OK, what did telehealth work for and what didn’t work for? And for the things it didn’t work for, how can we make it work? And what steps can we take to ensure quality of care to ensure ‘good medicine’?
At Goldilocks, our belief is that telehealth should be seen in a more sophisticated manner than a standalone video call between patients and doctors, but rather as a part of a broader, tech-enabled, patient-centered care approach. This can involve the use of home-based devices for monitoring, leveraging AI and virtual assistants for low-level care, and integrating wearable technologies into vitrual patient care. For example, at Goldilocks, we have developed a comfortable, smart clothing system with built-in sensors that track patients’ health data and provide low-level support utilising AI and virtual assistants. This allows patients to triage their own health concerns and helps them seek telehealth consultations with clinicians when necessary and provide clinicians with remote monitoring ability.
The Future of Healthcare
The key to designing patient-centred care is to listen to the needs and preferences of patients and use technology to enable and enhance their care experience. This may involve rethinking traditional healthcare delivery models and prioritizing patient comfort, convenience, and autonomy. It may also involve leveraging data and AI to provide personalized care plans and improve patient outcomes.
In conclusion, the future of healthcare lies in patient-centred care that embraces technology, as a tool to enhance patient experiences and outcomes. By prioritizing the needs and preferences of patients and designing healthcare systems around them, we can ensure that patients receive the best care possible, leading to improved health outcomes and increased patient satisfaction. Let us learn from the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to innovate and improve healthcare for the benefit of all patients.