One of the most prominent benefits of healthcare digitalisation is the enabling of more rapid and secure communication and information-sharing between healthcare professionals in different disciplines treating the same patient, ultimately enabling a more holistic approach to patient care.1 Through applications that support the virtualisation of care, healthcare professionals can streamline patient data, efficiently collaborate in one shared dashboard, share information with other members of the multidisciplinary team and support continuity of patient care.
Digital health solutions provide a virtual space to facilitate and accelerate access to relevant data and information that can provide patient-specific insights for confident and timely treatment decisions. Digital tumour boards enable multidisciplinary oncology care teams to securely access, review, and share pertinent patient data and to have a clear oversight of relevant information, such as up to date guidelines and available clinical trials. Teams are provided with the possibility to align and collaborate more efficiently, thereby also opening time to spend with the patient. Tumour board software solutions securely integrate data across the patient healthcare journey, providing insights that can support confident care decisions.
To improve collaboration, an online tumour board solution was sought to improve planning and preparation by consolidating data in one place. The solution allows for standardized preparation and presentation processes and easy inclusion of updated information, images and findings. Radiology and pathology can compare interpretations virtually and provide context to optimize the surgeon’s tumour board preparation. Multidisciplinary team collaboration could be streamlined and made more efficient as experts are able to access the data and information they need at any time and from any device with a secured Internet connection.2
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As another example of enabling digital health solutions, digital pathology refers to the practice of pathology with the use of digital imagery. It includes all processes and technologies that maximise the practical utility of such images, including storage, viewing and use in different applications and healthcare-relevant settings.5 As many treatment and care decisions are taken based on pathology findings, quick and easy access to information enables rapid and effective communication between technicians and pathologists.
With an increasing shortage of pathologists worldwide6, coupled with the increase in incidence of cancer and a growing number of immunotherapies, there is a need to improve diagnostic efficiency, reduce complexity for pathologists, and enable a 360-degree view of patients. Digital pathology solutions, including cloud-based case management and communication tools, remove time-consuming tasks to support diagnostic efficiency and ensure an easier way of scoring through digital-assist solutions. Despite several remaining technical, educational, financial, and logistical challenges, digital pathology is on the verge of becoming a mainstream option for routine diagnostics.7
Health data gathering offers huge potentials for patients and healthcare professionals. At the same time, patient data is highly sensitive and therefore requires adequate protection to prevent misuse of any form that could harm people’s privacy as well as their health. Health data collection does not come without risks, including misuse of information, malicious cybersecurity attacks, fraud and exploitation and the inappropriate use of health data as well as ethical challenges.8,9
Patients and the organisations and individuals that handle patient data have several measures available to effectively protect health data from these threats. These include access control and cryptography, data de-identification and privacy-preserving distributed data mining,10 which allows for the analysis of decentralised data without leaking sensitive information from any party to other parties accessing the data.11 Other measures such as training individuals that handle confidential patient data and ensuring an adequate level of data hygiene practices12 can further contribute to keeping patient data safe and secure.
From a policy perspective, significant advances in the development and implementation of legal frameworks on data protection have been made at regional and national level. Relevant regulatory frameworks such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the future European Health Data Space or the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), safeguard the control over personal health data and provide the necessary policy frameworks for safe and secure practices for data-sharing.
Hammer, Richard & Fowler, Donna & Sheets, Lincoln & Siadimas, Athanasios & Guo, Chaohui & Prime, Matthew. (2021). A digital tumor board solution impacts case discussion time and postponement of cases in tumor boards. Health and Technology. 11. 1-9. 10.1007/s12553-021-00533-x.
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