EPIS explores impact of COVID-19 on digital healthcare
While the Covid-19 pandemic has proved a catalyst for digital transformation in many industries, the challenges for healthcare were even more prominent. With those challenges came opportunities, and participants at the European Patient Innovation Summit (EPIS) explored the positives and negatives of digital engagement and made recommendations on how patients can continue to benefit from digital in future.
In late 2020 and early 2021, more than 250 patient advocates, across 40 countries came together in a virtual meeting series alongside the EPIS Steering Committee.
Established in 2016, EPIS is a platform for patient advocates across Europe to discuss digital health and issues relating to the digital world and health. EPIS includes an annual event and is organised and funded by Novartis.
Attendees noted that digital solutions allowed them to maintain continuity of care during the pandemic, with virtual communications and social media providing new options to communicate healthcare services. Patient organisations were able to stay connected with their members and, more importantly, patients could interact with healthcare professionals (HCPs) and gain support from family and friends.
However, EPIS participants said a lack of face-to-face interaction with HCPs caused many to feel isolated and unable to access certain services. Many patients did not understand how to use tech solutions, and some HCPs were also reluctant to embrace digital tools.
“COVID-19 may have accelerated digital engagement, but there is still so much we can do to ensure patients get the most from it,” said EPIS Steering Committee member Gilliosa Spurrier-Bernard.
“We need improved digital health literacy, seamless patient access to their own data, standardisation in digital health technologies for both patients and healthcare professionals, and digital solutions that are co-created from inception. Only then can we truly address the healthcare needs to the patient community.”
EPIS recommendations on digital
EPIS 2020 participants voted on a series of recommendations that key stakeholders can take to ensure patients continue to benefit from digital engagement:
- Patient Organisations – The creation of a national, digital patient platform that can be utilised in online consultations with HCPs, as well as for training and education.
- Healthcare Professionals – Implementation of standardised digital platforms that can be used by both HCPs and patients.
- Policy Makers – Provide a central educational tool that can be distributed to patients and HCPs. Also highlighted was the need for national, centralised telemedicine systems for virtual clinics.
- Technology Developers – Work with patients and HCPs in the development process to co-create digital solutions. New tools must meet a specific, relevant need.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”