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Infrastructure Technology:

Future’s Healthcare Delivery

If we cast a glance into the future of healthcare, it is apparent


that this growing field will rely even more on cutting-edge
technology. But
what will be the best way to deliver healthcare to patients
and how will providers deliver it?

Healthcare is an instantaneous, chaotic environment. Sick

or injured people need immediate attention. Doctors and nurses

sometimes feel that hospitals want them to do more with fewer

resources, that the tools they have to do their jobs are now

increasingly antiquated but that they just don’t have time to learn

yet another new computer system. On the other hand, patients view

hospitals as foreign, threatening, impersonal, controlling,

undignified, invading, painful, confusing, isolating and lonely.

Clearly, healthcare delivery does not appear to be working well for

either the providers or the patients.


LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL

Although world population growth rate has dropped

dramatically over the past 30 years, the total population has

continued to increase. In the past year alone, the population grew

by more than 77 million people. With these continually growing and

ageing populations, the question of how to deliver healthcare in a

better way will continue to be a challenge. In many countries around

the world, healthcare is becoming much more individual/patient-

directed with the emphasis being placed on prevention and well

being education. We will see the evolution of more free-standing

health assessment centers. Education centers and centers for

wellness and fitness.

Networking technologies including global telemedicine will

prevail as will the use of smart card technologies for ultimate

patient identification and information. Virtual services and

interactive television and computers will assist in diagnosis and

treatment. Then there are the new and evolving ‘telehealth’ (for long

distance communication and medical procedures) and ‘e-medicine’

(for such functions as instant diagnosis and medical chat rooms).

DOING MORE WITH LESS

Ideally technology should help an organization control costs,


increase customer satisfaction and provide timely and meaningful

information that will assist in gaining the competitive edge. As

patient needs, medical knowledge and diagnostic equipment become

more sophisticated so must the technology systems that form the

framework for the healthcare industry. But how will all of this

technology happen? What will it cost? How can we retrofit our

hospitals? And how can we get these systems in place and people

trained in time to take care of the growing patient load?

THE WAY WE WERE

The ultimate goal for every healthcare organization is to create

a seamless delivery system. However. Many of these organizations'

facilities are notoriously fragmented. The introduction of faster and

better diagnostic equipment, as well as computer Systems to support

departments, has usually come in fits and starts meaning that

technology and communications systems in have not always been

able to talk to one another.

Today, computers have got smaller, smarter and more robust.

And technology is running everything. Hospitals everywhere are

expanding their technology bases, with networks sprouting up in

most areas of patient care. These technologies include:

communication systems. Desktop conferencing, wireless


technologies, digital imaging, image archiving, ICU/CCU patient

information networks. Library and hospital information systems,

Telemedicine, tele-radiology, electronic medical records, home health,

nurse call systems, technology planning.

The problem of information fragmentation will be solved only

through carefully developed technology plans that simultaneously

construct viable infrastructure, while maximizing internal resources.

Organizations need to view technology as an integral and vital part of

their overall strategic plans. Good technology plans include the

following elements:

Setting of standards (essential to integrate voice. video and dam

systems)

Creating a long-term vision of what you need to integrate as

well as how You are going to manage technology in your

business

Critically assessing your facilities infrastructure and existing

systems. Making recommendations and identifying

opportunities

Purchasing only from vendors and manufacturers who believe

in open systems architecture and who will integrate to your


existing systems.

THE TECHNOLOGY TEAM

It is Perhaps preferable for modern healthcare organizations to

create a ‘technology team’ (far removed from the traditional, top-

heavy organizational structure) that is capable of solving problems

from concept through to design plus implementation and ongoing

support. Any systems that will be added in the future will require

open architectures to ensure ease of integration and this should be

discussed up front in the procurement process. Setting these

standards and working with the materials manager to ensure the

standards are met (especially with new systems and equipment), is

an important function of the technology team.

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME

Healthcare is one field that will definitely grow larger and more

important in coming years as millions of 'baby boomers’ enter the

second half century of their lives and begin to experience the affects

of the natural process of aging. The two most important factors for

catering to this of course, are the ‘brains and the means’. One cannot

be integrated without the other, yet together they provide a

phenomenally efficient and effective healthcare support system. How

long will such an effort take to produce results? Experts have


estimated that it will take a minimum of five to seven years before

the new technologies arrive, bandwidth to get higher and for the long

list of consortiums and alliances agree on common standards.

Ultimately, we know that technology integration is essential, time-

consuming, complex and extremely valuable to peoples’ lives.