Digital health is here to stay
Digital health data, robots in hospitals, doctor’s consultations in your own living room and much more. Futuristic pipe dreams or the early stages of progressive healthcare in Switzerland? Carlos Garcia, an ICT architect at the Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale (EOC) and Chair of the e-Health Ticino (eHTI) core community, gives an insight into the rapid progress of digitization in Swiss healthcare.
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Mr Garcia, a folder filled with loose sheets containing my health records currently lies on my physician’s table, while he jots down my symptoms by hand on a clean sheet of paper. Is all this set to become a thing of the past?
I wouldn’t put it quite like that. The Swiss healthcare system hasn’t quite reached that stage yet. But there’s tremendous catch-up potential as far as digitization is concerned. In the Digital Health Index, which analyses the status of digitization in 17 selected countries, Switzerland is lagging towards the bottom of the table (14th place out of 17). There’ll be lots of progress in the near future, but let’s put it like this – robots and Dr Google definitely won’t be managing everything by themselves. Human contact and communication remain fundamental aspects of healthcare provision.
Is Switzerland ready for healthcare to become digitized?
We’ve seen much greater willingness to drive digitization forward over recent years. The pandemic has played a major role in this issue, accelerating the pace of developments. It’s no longer a question of whether we want to commit to digitization, but rather of when and how much we want to invest. It’s simply inevitable. Service providers – such as doctors and care staff – have realized that digitizing processes takes the strain off them. When it comes to repetitive tasks in particular, services and automation enable us to save resources and use them for more important things. Politicians are also supporting this development. Besides introducing electronic patient records, several proposals that offer ways to promote digitization are currently being examined.
Where do you see the greatest potential?
In ensuring better healthcare provision thanks to the secure digital transfer of medical data using methods that are compliant with data protection legislation. The aim is to create transparency, cut costs and save time. Time that can be invested in treating patients. We’ve got to move away from the notion that there are closed records for every individual doctor. We need to encourage communication between service providers – this obviously needs to be done securely, while remaining compatible with various systems. The keyword is interoperability. Ultimately, patients decide who is authorized to view their personal healthcare data. The system is becoming increasingly patient-centric – they are sharing the responsibility for their health and are in constant dialogue with the healthcare professionals who are supporting their treatment.
How does infrastructure need to develop to ensure that data transfer is beneficial and trustworthy?
In my role as an ICT architect, I aim to ensure that infrastructure can be modified rapidly and securely – and, of course, that it meets all data protection regulations. I deliberately used the words “modified rapidly”, because IT systems are developing at breakneck speed. In the past, it took years to roll out updates, but now it takes just a few weeks. That’s vital in healthcare – systems have to be optimized and developed on an ongoing basis to meet the changing requirements of all stakeholders and citizens.
You’re also the Chair of e-Health Ticino. What goals is the core community pursuing?
We want to give the people of Ticino the opportunity to manage their personal electronic patient records. That’s the goal we must work towards throughout Switzerland. I appreciate that it’s not easy. In Swiss Post and its e-health platform, we’ve got a trustworthy partner and a reliable solution that will provide the people of Ticino with access to their healthcare data in the near future.
What does Swiss Post have to do with Swiss healthcare?
In our video, Carlos Garcia explains more about collaboration with Swiss Post.
A bold, highly motivated mover and shaker: Carlos Garcia
Always seeking out new challenges and unafraid to venture beyond his comfort zone – that’s Carlos Garcia. Is there a special moment he’d really like to relive? The end of his very first Half Ironman: “I get goosebumps thinking about it.” He’s been working as an ICT architect at EOC Lugano for 17 years and, as Chair of the e-Health Ticino core community, has been driving forward the digitization of healthcare for five years. What does he enjoy doing? Developing solutions afresh – day in and day out.