communication technologies

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How new technologies are shaking up health care

9:27AM | Thursday, 3 September

 New tests and drugs have impacted health care for many decades. But we’re now seeing the emergence of completely different kinds of technologies that will radically alter how health care is both accessed and delivered.   In the past, patient and doctor, or other clinician, would generally meet in person. The clinician would employ the traditional process of seeking a history, undertaking physical examination and perhaps organising tests, to obtain details of the patient’s health-care needs and preferences.   The clinician would then relate this information to current knowledge of disease, prognosis and therapeutics, hopefully involving the patient, and together they would make decisions about a management plan.   A changing world The internet has changed all that. Health professionals or not, we already share similar access to vast amounts of information about disease processes and their management. Much of this is readily available so that patients can be, and often are, highly knowledgeable about their health and care options.   A growing number of health apps – of varying quality – are available to support patients' decisions about those options. And social media provide an instant network of peers with whom to share health concerns and experiences.     Wearable devides can monitor physiological processes, and sync with phones and social media. BTNHD Production/flickr, CC BY   Biosensitive wearable technologies now monitor basic physiological processes, such as pulse rate and physical activity, permitting analysis and interpretation in real time. Future wearables and home-based sensors will track a growing range of measures, providing data for increasingly sophisticated assessment of the wearer’s current health status, and decision support for their care.   Many pharmacies and other primary health-care facilities offer point-of-care testing for use on site or at home. Right now such tests are largely limited to simple biological measures, such as blood glucose or cholesterol. But the range and number of possible tests are expanding rapidly, and coming down in price.   Soon it will be possible not only to diagnose a specific infection, but to accurately predict which anti-infective (if any) would be most effective for its treatment. All this will be done within minutes, and often without the need for a doctor, nurse or other health-care professional to examine, test and prescribe.   At the same time, advances in human genomics are providing the basis for redefining and reclassifying diseases. These advances enable increasingly accurate prediction of risk; new opportunities for effective prevention; and rapid confirmation of a growing number of diagnoses, clarifying the patient’s likely prognosis as well as informing treatment selection.   This is the basis of personalised medicine, which seeks to match health-management advice to the individual and not just to their disease. Parallel developments in genetic analysis of tumours and of the pathogens that cause infections are further refining the possibilities for matching the treatment to the patient and their disease.   Mental health too It’s not just physical health care that’s being affected; information and communication technologies are transforming psychological care. Psychologists and psychiatrists rarely examine patients physically, so video-consultations are becoming more common.     Video consults are becoming more common, allowing patients to communicate with their clinicians remotely. Mike Blake/Reuters   A growing number of websites provide online psychological assessment and advice for the user. These range from straightforward screening for common mental problems to sophisticated measurements of cognitive and emotional functioning, which can predict responsiveness to specific therapies.   Psychological treatments, such as cognitive behavioural and mindfulness interventions, are readily available online. There is strong evidence for their effectiveness when used appropriately.   Communications technology can also enable real-time monitoring of patients’ adherence to prescribed medical treatment: this has obvious applications in the care, for example, of people with dementia. And smart dispensers can help all of us remember to take our medicines.   These developments remove the need for patients and their clinicians to meet in person, or even to communicate synchronously, unless physical interaction such as surgery is required. The array of generic and patient-specific information, and of electronic decision support aids that both patients and clinicians can access, are redefining the role of the clinician.   Doctors will increasingly play a role as expert guides to available resources, facilitating patients' choices and decision making. Physical infrastructure for emergency management, surgical intervention and care of the very sick will still be needed. But information technology’s ability to collapse time and space will increasingly alter how health care is accessed and delivered in the community, enabling the right care every time, and at the patient’s convenience.   The implications for health service planning and policy, and for health professional education, are profound. Key considerations will include enabling equity of access to the potential benefits of information technology and ensuring that this enhances rather than distracts from the human connection we all need when we feel ill or fearful about our health.   Tim Usherwood is Professor of General Practice at University of Sydney This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The OECD’s scorecard for the Digital Economy: Australia OK, but could do better

10:40AM | Wednesday, 8 October

In a report that is due to be released next month, the OECD has drawn a picture of the state of the world’s digital economy, or at least that of its member countries. The reported data paint a picture of our modern digital life, with growing numbers of people accessing the internet via high speed broadband or wireless on their mobiles, enabling them to take part in social networks and online shopping. The digital citizen   Overall, the number of adults in the OECD countries that use the internet increased from 60% in 2005 to 80% in 2013. The gap between young and old varies according to country but in the most advanced economies, up to 95% of young people are now internet users. 70% of them also access the internet at school. Buying products and services online has now become the norm, with 50% of users doing so, and an increasing proportion of that is now via a mobile device.   E-Government services were used on average by 35% of individuals and about 80% of businesses. E-Government is defined as people accessing information and submitting completed forms, including tax returns.   A particularly interesting set of data showed the degree to which users in a particular country would watch YouTube content from that country. This was highest in Japan where 75% of YouTube views were of Japanese videos, through to the USA where 33% of content viewed was of US origin and Australia where only 8% of views was of Australian content. Unfortunately the data doesn’t tell us where the majority of content Australians watched came from but one can only assume that it was from countries like the US and UK.   It seems that being a digital native starts young in most OECD countries. The age of first access to the internet in 2012 ranged from 33% being under 6 in Denmark to the majority of Russians being over 10 years old. Australia, as with many things digital, was somewhere in the middle with the majority of kids being under 9 when they first accessed the internet. The not-so-digital citizen   Not all is quite as switched on as it would appear however. In the EU, over 60% of the labour force reported that they had insufficient computer skills they considered necessary to apply for a new job. This included just under 40% of people with a university education. Again in the EU, 30% of internet users cited concerns about security as the reason they wouldn’t buy anything online.   Computer use at work also varied dramatically across OECD countries with countries like Russia and Italy reporting over 50% of workers not using a computer at work. This figure was around 26% in the US and as low as 17% in Norway. Digital companies   Companies have been slower than individuals to adopt digital ways but they have recently been speeding up. According to the OECD, “It took 15 to 20 years for slightly more than three quarters of enterprises to develop a website, but only a few years for around 30% of businesses to become active on social networks”. In the OECD countries, 94% of businesses have access to broadband, 75% had a website, but only 20% conducted any sales online. The standout country here was New Zealand where 80% of companies purchased goods online and 45% of companies sold goods online. The use of enterprise resource planning tools was lowest in the UK where only 10% of companies used this type of software. Wired (and wireless) countries   A key enabler for a digital economy and digital citizens is access to broadband. The main driver here has been access to wireless broadband, principally enabled through the mobile phone. Almost 75% of OECD citizens now have a mobile wireless broadband subscription. In Australia, there has been a radical increase in subscriptions since 2009 where the figure was less than 20%, to now where there are more subscriptions than inhabitants. Australia now has the second highest wireless broadband usage of all OECD countries.   Fixed, or wired, broadband subscriptions in OECD countries tell a different story. Korea leads the world with over 70% of fixed broadband subscribers having speeds above 10 Mbps. The USA is over 30% but Australia is down near the bottom of the list at 10%.   The Digital Economy   The impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on the economy is huge. ICT companies spend more on the research and development than the rest of the economy and across the OECD productivity in IT companies is about 60% higher than the rest. Other analyses have estimated that the impact of wireless broaband on the Australian economy has been around $34 billion a year.   As countries continue to look for ways of boosting their economies, investing in productivity and innovation through information technologies seems the most feasible way of achieving this. This is especially true for countries like Australia where the reliance on mining is not sustainable.   This article was originally published at The Conversation.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Another $350 million for innovation fund under Venture Australia

3:47AM | Friday, 15 March

Start-ups look set to benefit from a new $350 million round of equity funding through the federal government’s Innovation Investment Fund, announced as part of the Venture Australia package.

Going local for your start-up funding

3:12AM | Friday, 15 March

Frankston City Council recently announced a new grant scheme for start-ups, one of the few local councils around the country to offer grants to early stage ventures.

Making waves in mature Melbourne

4:39AM | Monday, 2 April

Melbourne   Population: 4.07 million   Start-up survival rate: 74.3% (2007 to 2009)

Are Australian investors overly conservative?

11:31PM | Monday, 14 November

Getting venture capital for any start-up is hard work. Even in the US, the world’s biggest venture capital market and the mecca for start-ups, only two out of every hundred get funded.

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