IMPROVED HEALTHCARE ABOUT HAVING YOUR HEAD IN THE CLOUD
Have you ever sat in the doctor’s office, feeling like death warmed up and trying to avoid the person hacking in the corner because as you imagine what bugs you could be adding to your already riddled body if you get too close? If you have a smartphone, laptop or tablet and a broadband connection at home, those days may soon be over.
While faster broadband is bringing more functionality at home, it is also driving a step-change in how our health professionals see, interact with and treat patients. Doctors are “seeing” patients via tools we use every day such as Skype and Facetime. It’s particularly revolutionary for rural areas, allowing medical and specialist care into areas previously without ready access to such services.
Waikato District Health Board launched SmartHealth, New Zealand’s first official virtual health service in May last year. Patients simply sign up online or with their local hospital, download the app from the Apple App store or Google Play. If their doctor or specialist has registered and it’s appropriate for their treatment, they can choose to have their consultation via video conference or text chat from home or work, rather than travelling to hospital. With over 60% of Waikato DHB district living in rural areas it will certainly free up significant time for other things. Anyone with a broadband connection and a device such as a smartphone, tablet or computer can access the service.
Virtual health services enable patients to have more support between appointments as well. Patients with diabetes can receive help via a programme named SMS4BG which delivers support and monitoring reminders to patients via text message.
Plunket was the first Kiwi healthcare provider to utilise the Cloud to increase the productivity and mobility of its team of hard-working Plunket nurses. Plunket utilised an existing Cloud-based platform to move from its cumbersome paper-based system. It’s a godsend for nurses who simply input the information using a tablet and it uploads automatically to the Cloud-based repository, making it available wherever and whenever it’s required.
In Canterbury a secure mobile app is being trialled which will allow healthcare workers to securely capture, share and receive information wherever they are. The app uses security similar to that used in banking and those trialling it believe that giving doctors and district nurses access to support and specialist information will mean patients have better quality healthcare at the primary point of care, possibly reducing the need for admission to hospital in some cases. Cloud-based platforms are also being used to improve breast imaging analytics with the objective of providing improved breast screening services to Kiwi women.
Better broadband is fast driving better access to medical care for New Zealanders. And with Microsoft Cloud Services being confirmed mid 2016 as meeting Ministry of Health requirements for storage of personal health information, it’s likely that broadband-enabled healthcare will become as normal as Internet banking for New Zealand patients in the very near future.
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