The Healthcare Technology Association (HTANZ) hosted an after hour event on Friday, 15th march which brought both students and health professionals together to educate, inspire and share the upcoming digitalisation processes in healthcare. The Decima Glenn Room at the University of Auckland Business School bustled with an eager audience to hear what the three health organization speakers had to say about the future of our healthcare system. But before the speakers could hit the spotlight the Healthcare Technology Association’s very own founder and president, Christiane Zhao warmly welcomed the room expressing what an honour it was to be there, and have all of us there to share this moment of her career, and the exciting news of health technology together.
First to present Orion Health’s developed technology in clinical information searching was their former clinical product specialist, Michael Hosking (who recently became the director of Clinnovation Limited). Hosking’s work of more efficient and accurate patient searching within the healthcare system he states, will give New Zealanders “more confidence in their healthcare professional having access to accurate information more quickly than currently exists.” This development, Hosking further explained in his presentation will not only improve time scheduling and workload for clinicians but will also save patients time and money. The underlying NLP technology behind Hosking’s work he claims has uses other than system efficiency, “some other uses could include: real-time bio-surveillance to improve national responses to infectious disease outbreaks; similarity analytics which supports scenarios for more individualistic care plans; and advanced clinical decision support informing disease prevention.”
When I asked Michael what students should take away from this event, his answer was one directed towards those who wish to be a part of this growing industry and advice to current technology tasks, “clinical engagement and active ownership of the problem and solution is critical- ensure this early and often to improve the likelihood of success of any digital project.” Hosking’s future in health technology is something he looks at with an open mind as he expressed “I believe the opportunities are boundless. My passion lies in sustainable, data driven, healthcare system design and workforce development”, which reminds us all to keep our doors open, keep our passions close by and look forward to what lies ahead.
Next to bring laughter all around but also the incredibly futuristic world of healthcare was Vensa Health’s business strategist, Dr. Tom Varghese. Varghese’s presentation explored the technology of AI ‘communication’ with patients nationwide. The idea that patients can simply type their symptoms into a message-like forum and a computer will reply with a diagnosis. This of course lead me to ask Tom a question a vast majority of us were thinking, why should people trust a computer? Tom’s response was simple, “a human being comes with inherent errors and flaws, you forget, you say things you’re not meant to say, you’re not sometimes empathetic, a machine won’t do that.” It seemed understandable enough, and yet some of us were still sceptical so Tom further explained, “a machine is fed a bit of information and follows an algorithm, responds with data, reproduces that over and over again. So as a clinician, I would trust a machine because I’m able to get consistency, I cannot demand consistency from a human being.”
Varghese’s answer truly connected the dots that in order to have easy access, affordability and convenience in healthcare we must put trust in the very thing society has had queries about for decades. In terms of patient information security Varghese commented, “My personal take is information is never 100% bulletproof, you could have the best encrypted data procedures and you could still get hacked into, but what we do with that is, we learn and reiterate and we get better.” Which is why of course Vensa Health’s project will keep all patient information in the cloud rather than in “a little box sitting under your doctor’s desk.” When I asked Dr. Tom Varghese my final question of why university students should take an interest in this area of the health industry, his reply I believe not only spoke out to those aspirating to be involved in health, but all of us aspiring to be involved in the future, Tom said, “You’re a digital generation, thinking differently is part of your DNA. Those people sitting there making those decisions, they probably don’t understand or comprehend it that well. Why should you be involved in it? Exactly that, because it is you inheriting this legacy.”
To wrap up the evening Dr. Lloyd McCann took centre stage to talk about the overall ambitions and obstacles of health technology and about digitalisation from a private company's perspective. McCann brought to light the problems the healthcare system will face when undergoing this digital transition. He stated, “with any change you create some friction, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I think there are ways we can change our thinking and the way we act that allows us to get better at doing it.” In foreseeing the digital health uptake McCann predicted, “we probably will reach that point, the tipping point theory, where there is suddenly a very sharp rise in uptakes and adoption in terms of digital approaches.”
Healthcare, as we all know is one of the pillars that hold up the world we live in today and what these three health technology professionals subconsciously projected through their presentations is that this pillar must not only be maintained, but also improved. With these new, exciting developments in health technology, we can all share in the life changing opportunities of this growing industry.