We need to radically change the way healthcare professional education is delivered.
Even twenty years back tertiary care hospitals were able to diagnose and treat complicated cases reasonably well, under one roof.
However, now the thrust is on wellness rather than illness. The majority of the patients suffers from NCDs (non-communicable diseases) and need long-term treatment and monitoring from home rather than in a hospital setting.
Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) is already enabling doctors, nurses, and patients to help each other. In the process, it is also facilitating primary care doctors to disrupt specialists, and for nurse practitioners to disrupt doctors.
The second role for ICT in transforming the cost and quality of health care is through the enhancement of medical records from pen and paper based to electronic forms or EMRs – ones that are portable, easily accessible, and interoperable. These can substantially reduce the costly paperwork that burdens today’s caregivers. Further, these will make it easier to avoid costly mistakes, and will enhance the involvement of patients in their own care.
In its most basic form, an electronic medical record (EMR) is simply the electronically stored version of what has always been recorded with pen and paper. However, the ability to customize and focus the personal health records or PHRs on consumer involvement may allow it to overcome many of the hurdles that have slowed the adoption of EMRs.
Unlike the US and Europe, in India, the EHRs have not yet been implemented extensively. That offers a regulatory advantage as the Health Ministry has come out with guidelines for adopting Standards. The National Health Policy 2017 has advocated a facilitating environment:
23. Digital Health Technology Eco – System: Recognising the integral role of technology(eHealth, mHealth, Cloud, Internet of things, wearables, etc) in the healthcare delivery, a National Digital Health Authority (NDHA) will be set up to regulate, develop and deploy digital health across the continuum of care. The policy advocates extensive deployment of digital tools for improving the efficiency and outcome of the healthcare system. The policy aims at an integrated health information system which serves the needs of all stake-holders and improves efficiency, transparency, and citizen experience. Delivery of better health outcomes in terms of access, quality, affordability, lowering of disease burden and efficient monitoring of health entitlements to citizens, is the goal.
The future world in which today’s health professional students will practice will be substantially different from the world for which the medical schools are preparing them. One difference is that many diseases that are in the realms of intuitive and empirical medicine today will have migrated toward the domain of precision medicine in 20 years. Therefore, many diseases will eventually be diagnosed and treated by clinical decision support systems, nurses and physician assistants. Organizing and supervising the work of allied health professionals will be a major dimension of
most of the physicians’ jobs.
Another difference can be perceived between personal versus process expertise. There will always be a need for deeply experienced, intuitively expert physicians to find complicated solutions. Many diseases will go on defying precision medicine, and new diseases will emerge. Today’s methods of preparing medical students to work as individuals is appropriate for those who will work in tertiary care hospital setups — though we will likely need fewer such physicians 30 years from now. But most of the physicians in the future will work in settings where much of the ability to deliver care will be better embedded in processes (clinical workflows) and in (smart) equipment, rather than exclusively resident in individuals’ capacities. Any medical college is yet to establish a health professional course in which students can learn how to design self-improving processes that prevent mistakes from occurring.