Can web based services improve health outcomes?

By Thibaud Guymard

This month I was at an event hosted by HealthUnlocked, a UK company that develops web technology to support, engage and track patients with chronic diseases. The event’s aim was to present and launch the UK’s first online patient-reported outcome measures system called the HealthUnlocked Tracker.

Leading figures from health charities and the UK’s Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, were there to explain how HealthUnlocked’s online services could help shape clinical decisions in the NHS and help to put patients at the heart of the healthcare system.


Patients at the heart of Healthcare

The new tracking service tested at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH, an NHS hospital) proves an example of how technology can help to better understand patients and to improve their relationships with their healthcare professionals, by putting them at the heart of the system.

HealthUnlocked Tracker uses a web based platform and iPads to record information from patients. Patients can add information or answer simple questions asked by the hospital to track and measure their progresses after surgery, for example.

Two ways are used to engage patients and enable them to share their recovery information. Patients can access and edit information about their recovery online, on a website. Via ‘the cloud’, their surgeons or any authorized healthcare professional can access information about their patients whenever and wherever they want.

The patient is also asked to answer to some questions when he comes to an appointment with their healthcare professional, using the iPad interface. The primary benefit of this is to instantly record information during the appointment; answers provided by the patient will help to save time so that the conversation can then focus on other issues such as information about improving his recovery. Using an iPad also provides a user-friendly interface, and this friendly environment makes it easy for the patient to engage with his doctor more effectively. Indeed, the information he actively adds to the system can be a basis for a conversation about what matters the most, his health.

This service is also about measuring health outcomes from the patient’s perspective, which is a new approach for the hospitals and this is expected to bring many interesting and challenging insights for the healthcare professionals, the hospital and the healthcare system too.

So, patients are back at the heart of their own care and they can share decision making with healthcare professionals.


Improving healthcare professionals’ practices

This kind of tracking technology helps doctors to better understand their patients and the real outcomes and issues they are facing.

“This technology can revolutionise the practice of Surgeons in so many ways. […] Having a system which allows us to quantify what we are good at or bad at and improve it is a massive strength” says Matthew Shaw, Consultant Spinal Surgeon at the RNOH.

He says that using it has allowed him to understand his practice in a far deeper way than he has ever done, thanks to the benchmarking he can do and the visual analysis of the feedback he has access to. This new digital way of recording and tracking data from patients which provides valuable information to the healthcare professionals might be a part of the future health system that will help to “do less of the things they do badly and focus on the things they do well”.

Practically, tracking systems can help to reduce writing errors and to save time. The RNOH estimates that this time saved could create 300 new outpatient appointment slots per consultant surgeon per year.

Digital systems that can provide information about the real outcomes and the performance of healthcare professionals, if used in an intelligent way, can help them to better understand their own strengths and weaknesses.

Data recording, but also information delivering

Data is all around us, and the volume of data collected continues to grow as healthcare companies or organisations collect and record using a wide range of tools. The real challenge is not so much to simply record data, but to translate data into valuable information that is useful to find new insights and answer health or business challenges.

HealthUnlocked’s Tracker is an example of how tomorrow, most of the data or information we already have could be used to improve health outcomes, not simply be accessed by technologists or statisticians.

Through increasingly improving user interface design, data visualization, and intelligent use of mobile devices, we can expect to see a growing trend towards improved health outcomes from connected technology.

Creation Healthcare works with healthcare stakeholders to continually improve health outcomes through innovation. If you would like to discuss how the changing world of healthcare engagement affects your organization, please contact us.


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Meet the Author

Thibaud Guymard