- Technology takes an increasingly important role in healthcare and prevention.
- ROC van Twente and Saxion University of Applied Sciences discuss the importance of healthcare technology and the challenges of developing technologies that truly benefit healthcare and citizens.
Marjolein den Ouden is a Care & Technology practitioner at ROC van Twente and a lecturer in Technology, Health and Care at Saxion University of Applied Sciences. She recognises a major challenge in developing technology that benefits healthcare and citizens. “We need to develop technology that can be used with ease. It should make work easier for people in the care sector or improve the quality of life or well-being of patients and clients.”
This requires close collaboration with healthcare institutions, patients and clients. “We should not develop technology for a non-existent problem, or devise nothing for a clear problem," says teacher and researcher Theo Olthuis of ROC van Twente. Ideally, technology is maximally tailored to individual needs or patients and clients. “That’s where tensions arise because organisations want solutions that can be broadly applied. We, therefore, attempt to find common ground. There are cases, however, where a certain demand is so specific that there is no common ground at all,” says senior lecturer and researcher Richard Evering of Saxion.
That is why even more cooperation is needed between companies, healthcare institutions, education and research. Entrepreneurs to develop new technology, education to introduce healthcare professionals to the latest developments and research to evaluate the scope and meaningfulness of technology.
The three experts conclude with satisfaction that parties increasingly cooperate. They also make a critical note that there is still a lot to gain in terms of making people digitally aware of new technologies. Not only the managers of healthcare institutions need to be competent with new technologies, patients, clients and all teams as well. As an example, Health and Technology students at Saxion are being trained to support colleagues in using technology in healthcare.
Evering mentions video calling as a practical example in home-care. “This technology is rarely used, but there is great potential. For example, a caregiver can easily see the progress of wounds that are healing, or watch and support while patients take their medication and nutrition.”
According to Olthuis, people feel more reassured when having the option of more contact moments, even though a caregiver may not be physically present. “Physical contact moments will remain, but such technologies can be supportive.”
Of course, there are issues. For example, how should online patient records be dealt with, and which data is stored and shared? “About such topics, it is important to be transparent and clear from the start. Having good conversations leads to acceptance,” says Evering.
Time will tell where boundaries are to technology in healthcare. “Of course, we are not able to oversee everything. We must continue to ask critical questions. While staying innovative, we should closely monitor our advancements,” says Den Ouden.
Is there a risk that a group of digitally unaware people will soon be deprived of new care? According to Olthuis, research shows that the group between the ages of 65 and 76, the elderly in the near future, is actively using IT: 80 per cent are digitally aware and competent. “For those that are not, we must always be able to offer guidance.”
Healthcare must be accessible to bring citizens in touch with technology faster. Den Ouden: “We hope to start in September with Citizens Lab Oost, a project in which ROC van Twente, Saxion University of Applied Sciences and the University of Twente collaborate with technology companies, healthcare institutions, municipalities and citizens. Citizens play an active role in this project. Their tasks range from formulating challenges to testing new technologies. In the Citizen Lab, we focus on prevention, because it allows us to adjust our current healthcare to focus on those people whom we know have health risks in ten years. We can thus already take action before people need care.”