“For the first time in two years I can say that I am the same as before.” Silvia Guerrero was a patient with COVID-19, who has recovered thanks to treatment from the United States and telemedicine. Like her, sectors are reshaping themselves after a deep health crisis, as the guests at the meeting organized by EL PAÍS and Vodafone Business last week realized, they showed the shortcomings of the system. However, it was not all negative. These experts highlighted that the shock wrought by the pandemic has also fueled positive aspects. Among them were opportunities that offered a new view of the world: the digital world.
The technology benefits were crucial for Guerrero, who was also the coordinator of the Long Covid ACTS research group, which integrates a group of people affected by the long-term consequences of the virus. “The first survey that was done was for patients from the US and UK and the second was a collaboration here in Spain. None of this would have been possible without the digital age, it was a complete paradigm shift,” he explained during the law titled European money and digitization are fueling a healthy revolution.
Treatments, recommendations and a vaccine have been key factors in mitigating the virus, and have been crafted thanks to the contact of the global scientific community. For doctors like Antonio Fernández Pro, president of the Spanish Society of General Practitioners and Family Physicians (SEMG), the situation has taken its toll: “We can say without fear that we have lived through the most difficult years, adding to the uncertainty about the economy. Against this, he proposes” a strong public system It is based on certainty, accessibility, and communication.”
One of the main obstacles experts faced during their long days studying the evolution of the virus was the difficulty of dialogue with patients, a task that would have been much easier with digital tools in hospitals. It was also slowed down by old computer systems, with programs that were not interconnected. “We are in a country with 17 independent societies and the tools are different in each. It is very difficult to access the clinical history, which would be a tool of technological development par excellence.” For this reason, Fernandez Pro considers European funds an opportunity, although he encourages work with “clear standards and with clear safety in terms of clinical data and access to possible research”.
The European Union’s Next Generation programme, the European Commission’s plan aimed at reviving the continent’s economy, has been awarded 750,000 million euros, and will inject 70,000 million direct aid into Spain that will try to solve this kind of shortfall. Indeed, one of the pillars will be the digitization of companies and departments. Andrew Bernad is Managing Director of Strategic Accounts at Medtronic, a company dedicated to health technology, and he hopes this contribution will help solve the three major gaps in the health sector.
The first, according to Bernad, is the need to develop and purchase new technologies. “It doesn’t make sense that we are the country with the highest obsolescence rate in Europe,” he criticizes, giving an example: “We refurbish the ambulance before the machines inside.” The second gap is the reinforcement between the first line of care – which prevents disease – and the second – which aims for early diagnosis – to avoid hospital collapse. The third is the need to reach any population center. Summarizes “The genetic code should rule over the zip code.”
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The information about each person can be extracted and applied for the benefit of society. For Silvia Guerrero, there is a huge amount of wasted data in healthcare: “Analytics is wasted, a common system must be created, because if we analyze everything, we save a lot. In the end, the doctor does an analysis, but does not have time to compare it with previous analyzes by your own standards.
There are companies that have already been able to test the benefits of document gathering, explained Mario Poretica, an Intel spokesperson. The American giant has developed a project with Vodafone in three hospitals (Ramón y Cajal, 12 de Octubre and Sant Pau) thanks to covid diagnoses with chest x-rays. “The accuracy of the model was 88% while the best domestic models were only 71%,” he says. The data never leaves the hospital: AI models are used and combined with a central entity that only has access to the mathematical model, so patient privacy is guaranteed.
In addition to mastering therapies, the most primitive improvement in technology is the acceleration of administrative tasks, and this is another point with greater potential. Esther Sánchez, director of innovation at Vodafone Business, advocates that computer optimization cleans doctors’ offices out of paper so they can spend as much time as possible with the patient.
Sanchez embodies this progress by introducing new devices in ambulances that transmit a patient’s condition in real time, so that everything is ready when they arrive at the hospital in an emergency: “If there are sensors that capture vital signs, treatment becomes faster and more accurate.
Antonio Fernandez Pro delves into the managerial problem. All counseling files and documents are “bureaucratic nonsense” that limits their work. Indeed, he remembers that during the sixth wave of the epidemic, his colleagues’ chief enemy was writing sick leave for patients with mild infections: to use four hours a day to do both the lowest and highest. It is necessary to arrange needs and seek priorities to improve health.” Sanchez supports the idea that the main goal is to have a specific plan: “Innovation is doing different things that add value. Not only do we have to digitize, we have to transform.”
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