Future healthcare – remote care and self-care
The medical centre of the future will not be a building. Instead it will be a service for patients to be served wherever they want to be and interacting via remote measurements, alarms, and video calls.
Access to doctors needs to get much better. This is an opinion shared by many Finns. DNA’s panel of futurologists invited talk about the future of healthcare disagree on this. And they prefer to separate the question of access to healthcare and its quality.
“We are surprised over and over again by the results of studies that show good results can be achieved much more simply than using the experience-based professional skills of physicians,” says physician Jorma Mäkitalo, Director of Occupational Health Research and Service Center. He sees no limitations on what it will be possible to examine and treat using remote connections and other technologies.
On a small scale there is much that is already possible, at least potentially. Patients can connect to their doctor with the video link of their mobile phone, regardless of where they happen to be, and these services are available by the Finnish healthcare provider MeeDoc. Patients will soon be able to monitor their bodies with sensor probes – and any problems detected will automatically trigger the arrival of a paramedic when necessary.
Our own health in our own hands
Futurologist Ilkka Halava believes that we are moving towards a self-guiding society. He emphasises that a chain of small improvements has already started, which have increased our life expectancy more than any other factor over the past hundred years.
“People are constantly making micro-level decisions related to consumption and behaviour. They’re eating healthier, sleeping better, adopting healthier biorhythms, working more ergonomically, and not skipping holidays,” Halava says.
These changes, coupled with physical measurements of the body, and remote doctor appointments which simplify the logistics of patients schedules, will achieve substantial healthcare savings.
“And yet we have already allocated six billion euros in hospital building projects for the next five years,” Halava says.
Health – or concerns over health
According to Halava, Finland is an attractive environment for developing and testing new healthcare service supporting applications. Jaana Leipälä, MD, is also in favour of thorough experimentation and evaluation of different technologies. She is working as the General Secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
“The challenge will be to achieve a sufficiently high quality of healthcare with these new measuring systems and the data they detect. If healthcare fails to be improved, then people will still need a medical professional to help interpret the information,” Leipälä says.
Jorma Mäkitalo is intrigued by a claim he sometimes hears – that the healthcare sector, even with all the reforms it has undergone, has not been able to produce added health benefits for a long time. In fact, more sensitive forecasting has made people more concerned.
“There is a paradox about Finland’s healthcare. Finns are becoming ever more healthy, but also more worried,” Mäkitalo says.
Despite this fear, digital services will certainly revolutionize the healthcare sector at all levels.