Telehealth and eHealth: Ageing well: how can technology help? The RSM Conference 2013

For the last couple of days, I have attended the Annual Conference of the  Royal Society of Medicine’s (RSM) “Telehealth and eHealth 2013 Conference: Ageing well: how can technology help?”, organised by the RSM’s Section on Telehealth & eHealth. Personally, it has been a hugely inspiring conference, because it focused on the three key elements of this thing we call eHealth. I firmly believe that the 3 edges of the triangle of eHealth should be patient-centredness, good use of technology and public health:
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  • This conference has been highly patient-centric. I recently attended the Medicine 2.0’13 Conference and was disappointed of how much it was focusing on the business and data-harvesting aspects of eHealth. This is only my perception, which is probably due to the fact that I have always worked, and am passionate about, the public sector. So it was great to really feel how all these outstanding speakers (Mary Baker, Charles Lowe, Baroness Masham of Ilton, Malcolm Fisk or Rabbi Yehuda Pink, amongst others) do genuinely care about the people, about the patients. I was also pleasantly surprised by the humble and realistic talk about care homes by BUPA Care Services Medical Director Andrew Cannon.
  • Needless to say, this conference was very strong on how technology can help older people live healthier lives, by improving their quality of life (QoL). Having worked at the University of Oxford’s PROMs Group for a while, I know well the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of PROMs, so I completely agree that PROMs must be our weapons of choice to measure the impact of eHealth on people’s QoL. Two of my favourite quotes from the last two days are very illustrative of the approach to technology and health care during this conference. During his presentation, Dr M Vernon said that “we can use the technology we already have to improve health care”. I could not agree more: we must keep things as simple and as affordable as possible, if we want eHealth to become really mainstream in health care. My other favourite quote was by Rabbi Y Pink: “technology is God’s gift to humanity to improve our quality of life”. This made an atheist like myself smile, in a good way. It is crucial that relevant people in the community can pass the message in such a clever, easy to understand manner.1wimpolest
  • Last, but not least, I did thoroughly enjoy the focus on public health that this event had. In my humble opinion, there is still a lot (a lot) to be done in terms of public health and eHealth. It was great to learn about relevant initiatives from the European Commission, such as the imminent Green Paper on mHealth. I intend to post about this when it is published in a few weeks.

Finally, I was personally very interested to hear about many existing end of life/palliative care and dementia eHealth projects.

This is my take on this year’s RSM Telehealth and eHealth Conference. I would be very interested to hear your views, either via Twitter or as a comment to this post (below).

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Your death, and your information dots on the Web: what will happen to your digital identity after you die?

If you are reading this, chances are that you have some kind digital identity*. How many email addresses do you have? Do you have Facebook and Twitter accounts? Flickr, LinkedIn, MySpace, Spotify…? Do you have your own blog/s, too?

If you have one or more of the above, have you considered what will happen to all this digital information about you when you die? Because, let’s face it, we will all die sooner or later. And if you do nothing about it, the little digital information dots that we leave around the Web will stay there, as long as the Web exists. Who will inherit your digital estate? How would you like them to manage and distribute it?

The EndThis might sound frivolous and irrelevant when one is faced with illness and the end of one’s life. In fact, some studies have reported that an 8% of people are not concerned about this at all. However, the vast majority of Web users have given it some thought, although only a minority (13%) have acted on it. Some people now choose to include this in their will. There are also companies that offer services such as storing all your passwords and relevant data, and passing it on to your loved ones following your instructions. In other words, they offer to manage and distribute your digital estate after you die. Needless to say, there are enormous ethical and practical issues regarding this. For instance: how can you know that the company you chose to do that will actually still be in business when you die? And what happens if the company servers get hacked?

Digital technologies have brought us joy and knowledge, but with this have come some challenges attached. This blog entry has no solutions to offer, but hopefully it will raise awareness and give you a starting point to gently start thinking about your digital legacy.

Think of the value of your digital dots. Consider including this in your will. Talk to your loved ones about it. 

*Please note this post refers only to digital identity on the Web. It does not deal with digital information you may have in your computer/s or other devices.