Writer: Anzel Singh
CEO and Head of Digital Health at Mercy Radiology and Clinics, and Healthcare Holdings Limited, Dr Lloyd McCann provides a snapshot of New Zealand’s Healthcare system adapting to the era of technology. Speaking on the great potential benefits of embracing Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning and utilization of Cloud-based solutions that ensure services are deployed more rapidly than ever before. Transformation of the Healthcare Industry enabled by technology proves to be an exciting time as service delivery shifts towards patient-centred care which not only puts you in the driver seat of your healthcare experience, but also leads to a more sustainable system. Currently working at the forefront of these changes Dr McCann discusses what is beyond the horizon.
Q: When will Digital Health just be referred to as Health in terms of normalisation of AI and how fast is this transformation occurring?
Dr Lloyd McCann: One of the problems we have is that is referred to as digital health in the first place and not just health. We don’t talk about digital banking or digital travel we just refer to it as banking and travel. When is a hard question... I think we’ve entered a phase where we are accelerating towards digital delivery and digital services are becoming more embedded in healthcare. I think we’re still a few years away from it being integral to service delivery models, but I do think we’re starting to see this change speed up now.
I don’t think it’s just about machine learning and artificial intelligence. There are so many other technological approaches and solutions that we’ve just been very slow to adopt in health. Things like robotic process automation, cloud services, mobile solutions and so many other proven approaches that we are yet to adopt at scale.
Q: What disruptors on the horizon will be changing Healthcare and what should future Clinicians and Health IT specialists expect?
Dr Lloyd McCann: There’s some work being done by the medical futurist, Dr Bertalan Mesko that I follow closely. One of the first things he’s put out is that in health we shouldn’t be worried that AI and machine learning approaches will replace health professionals. What health professionals need to understand is that health professionals that embrace AI and approaches like machine learning will probably replace those that don't.
One of the reasons this is coming is because of the shift to a more consumer-centred model of care. Consumers expect convenience, rapid delivery of services and access at a time that makes sense for them. Consumers want information to be able to inform their decisions so the traditional model where we as medical professionals were the gatekeepers and custodians of that information is getting ripped apart and that’s a good thing for the consumer in my opinion.
In terms of some real disruptors, if I was going to pick two would be machine learning and AI because I think as these systems mature and as we get more confidence in systems that information asymmetry does get challenged and addressed.
The other big one for me is the increasing hybridisation of systems, biological systems meshing and being part of digital systems, whether that be a genomic sense or in a traditional clinical service delivery sense that mash-up between biological and digital systems creates some fascinating opportunities in terms of wearables and implantables so your ability to deliver care in different ways exponentially increases. A real world example is the digital therapeutics approach where we’re seeing entire treatment plans being delivered using a virtual model.
Omada health in the US are getting better outcomes from a virtual service delivery model than an in-person service delivery model for the treatment of diabetes and it’s more cost effective. For professionals that embrace these technologies and approaches there are lots of opportunities, but for those that don't, I believe they’ll become less relevant in the future.
Q: What potential do Integrated Practice Units have in revolutionising healthcare and what other specialities besides Head and Neck will follow this system?
Dr Lloyd McCann: Integrated Practice Units are not a new concept, it’s a concept that’s just been re-branded. Essentially we’re talking team-based care. Working in teams to get the best outcomes for patients is what it is all about. I think that is something that needs to be embraced in all areas of healthcare. Ultimately collaborative decision making means you’re making a more robust decision for the patient. I think all specialities need to embrace this approach.
It’s better for the consumer since you have a multidisciplinary or consensus decision being made for the best treatment pathway for that patient. The way we’re organized doesn’t exactly lend itself to that at the moment so we’ve got to reorganise our system but we know that the evidence suggests when you are practising team-based care the outcomes and cost-effectiveness of the system is markedly improved.
The head and neck example is where we took a 12 week pathway and compressed it down to a 45 minute appointment just by bringing the radiologist, the head and neck surgeon and pathologist together as an integrated practice unit.
The interesting thing is the clinicians that work in these team-based models of care get more job satisfaction so it’s better for the clinicians too because they’re working in a collegial environment where they get to operate at the top of their scope. Getting to make good decisions for their patients in real time as opposed to working in an isolated manner is just better!
Q: What role do Cloud-based solutions play in improving Clinician decision making and what’s currently happening in this space?
Dr Lloyd McCann: If you think about decision making or even just having the right information at the right time to make the right decision; using cloud-based solutions allows us to be more flexible, cost-effective, deploy services much more rapidly than the traditional on-premise model.
It also allows us to consume services in a much more flexible manner rather than needing to invest heavily in infrastructure or hardware upfront.
There’s a lot we could and should be using the cloud for. Several organisations in the US have moved most of their applications to the cloud and they’re seeing real benefits. Utilizing providers like Amazon, Microsoft and Google where cloud service delivery models are their bread-and-butter means we leverage all that expertise.
There are many different applications we could be leveraging and utilizing if we moved to more cloud-based services. We’ve just got to get more comfortable with that in health. And so you’re starting to see that progression in New Zealand, but we’re still taking baby steps.
Q: What are you most excited about in terms of future development in Health and what can we as patients/consumers look forward to?
Dr Lloyd McCann: I think there is a real opportunity of truly becoming a patient/consumer centred system. We’re still provider centred/lead and if you look at most other industries that’s not the way things work. Through utilizing digital tools, and more importantly changing the way we think and act to become consumer centred, we can have better outcomes for patients and the system. The evidence shows us that by delivering consumer centred models of care, we deliver better value - and it just makes sense. So that’s one of the things I’m most excited about. The opportunity to become truly consumer centred.