Robots, apps and more: Digital Health Week gives peek into the future of health care
By Rubab Abid, Intern, Communications & Public Affairs
Imagine a world where you could access your entire genome sequence from your phone. Where clinicians could use that information to not only diagnose diseases but prescribe specifically-targeted medications based on your unique genetic make-up.
It may seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, but experts believe such a scenario could soon be the future of health care. With the break-neck evolution of technology, clinicians are now able to use advanced digital tools to help provide better, more targeted care.
This week marks Digital Health Week, an opportunity to explore the innovative ways in which technology is helping improve the health of Canadians. From patient apps and surgical robots, to mobile alert systems and automated dispensing machines, SickKids is working hard to ensure that it has the right technology to support high quality care.
In the mid-1990s, SickKids became one of the first hospitals in Canada to introduce an online order entry system; and launched the Electronic Child Health Network, an online database that offers clinicians access to paediatric patient records from across Ontario. Twenty years later, SickKids boasts a network of databases that offer everything from patient health records and appointment bookings, to surgical information, ER check-ins and electronic ambulatory referral management.
Helen Edwards, Director of Clinical Informatics and Technology Assisted Programs at SickKids, says the rapid growth of digital technology has been focused on providing clinicians with tools that enable them to provide faster, more personalized treatments to patients.
“Digital health technologies can allow us to have information about patients readily available to whoever needs it, wherever they are. So if a doctor is in their office, or at home, or standing beside the patient - they have access to critical health information, quickly and securely,” she says.
Edwards gives an example of how nursing staff are able to hear patient monitor alarms, even if they are on the other side of the ward, through remote notification to a smartphone that the nurse carries. The nurse is immediately notified if a patient’s heart rate or oxygen level is outside the acceptable limit.
Another innovative technology recently launched by SickKids is Program Dose, a three-tier project focused on automating functions in the SickKids Pharmacy and providing technologies that support safe patient medication preparation, dispensing and administration.
In addition to an IV Robot and automated medication pickers and packagers being implemented in the Pharmacy, Automated Drug Dispensing Cabinets are being implemented throughout the inpatient and ambulatory areas. These cabinets dispense medications to ensure only the drugs ordered for a specific patient are made available. Nurses will use their unique fingerprint to access the cabinet, making entry quick and highly secure.
Dr. Karim Jessa, Chief Medical Information Officer at SickKids, says such technologies can help improve outcomes, increase patient safety through the delivery of accurate and integrated care and help clinicians provide more informed diagnoses.
“Our ultimate goal at SickKids is to have the right information, about the right patient, at the right time and digital technologies are fundamental in helping us achieve that goal,” he says. "The challenge and opportunity is to use these technologies in a way that increases productivity, efficiency, and patient safety."