Interview with Mai-Britt on the use of IT in healthcare
“As a researcher the use of clinical trial-technology is already an integrated part of my professional life.
As a healthcare professional, I try to apply information technology in patient home care."
Mai Britts’ aspirations to see a more technologized society have a solid foundation behind, since the advanced social networking tools, web solutions and telecommunications can fully support the whole health care delivery and education. Information technology may empower patients to take a more active role in their health care by providing enough information and giving possibility to take part in the decision making process. This redesign of home care services can lead to a totally new perspective in the medical sector, providing opportunity to receive an effective health care even by those patients who experience difficulties in accessing it. How is it going to be embraced this new transition in health care system, still remains under a big question mark…
EasyTrial: Over the past few years, there has been an increased interest for the use of ICT (Information and communications technology) tools and services in health, both by patients and healthcare professional. What are the causes of this tendency?
Mai-Britt: The whole health care system is facing a lot of challenges today, due to a huge decrease of funding provisions coming from government, increase of ageing population or those who experience some chronical illnesses, a shortage of hospital beds and medical staff and of course the geographical distance that becomes a barrier for the rural patients who are in need for health care services. Therefore, we need to find some alternative ways that are going to solve some of these issues. And here comes the role of the technology, especially of information and communication technology that becomes accessible to more patients and medical staff and of course appears to be very cost-saving in the long run perspective.
EasyTrial: How did you choose your area of research and why do you like it so much? Would you please tell more about your research and what objectives do you hope to achieve with this study?
Mai-Britt: I was always passionate about IT health and how does it impact on health care professionals as well as patients of different ages. In my professional practice, I have been involved in different innovation projects that were aimed to investigate the role of technological systems on health care. One type of this research was conducted here in Naestved hospital, where we had developed a Smartphone Application which can be used in the care of premature infants.
In this way, we were able to monitor the parents and their children at home and guide them in the care of their babies. The research about early in-homecare showed that premature infants have a lower risk of infections under the period of tube-feeding, higher parental satisfaction and indicate that early in-home care of premature infants benefit of home visits with fewer readmissions and less unscheduled support, shorter length of hospital stay and longer provision of breast milk.
The standard procedure in early in homecare supposes the home visits, but in some regions of Denmark (where we are dealing with long distances between hospital and parent/infant home) such activities are almost impossible. Until now, there has not been conducted any studies in regards to 24/7 home care services. Therefore, I saw a great opportunity to test through my research if the use of IT health (through videoconference and Smartphone application) is going to be a viable option to address the parents need for support in relation to early discharge. Moreover, I want to see which effect has this innovative approach on such factors as: exclusive breast feeding, parent/infant interaction; parenting confidence and acknowledge rate in regards the premature infant care. I believe that the use of video conferences and smartphone application might increase and improve all these aspects and impact positively on both parents and their children. I really would like to help families who are in need of medical guidance and support, but because of their geographical location cannot benefit from it.
EasyTrial: Many people believe that there are also many negative effects of technology on our lives. Are you aware of some disadvantages that ICT might bring in medical industry and what are the challenges that it is facing nowadays in health care sector?
Mai-Britt: Technology had always both sides of the coin: positive and negative one. As many others, I am aware of all disadvantages that it can be bring to society if it is used in inappropriate way.
Some of the main issues that people can address to are regarding privacy and confidentiality of patients’ information, degree of usability of the new tools or in other words, how accessible they are for the majority of patients, is their learning process fast and easy, how well are the clinical and policy standards respected, are the economic, ethical and social factors considered and so on. Personally, I know that many IT tools would be seen as a threat by many health care professionals since electronics would substitute some of the main functions of their jobs. People will have tendency to disapprove high techs because in some way technology might “steal” their work. And I can understand them perfectly. Therefore, there is a huge need of a well-planned integration and alignment of all processes in regards to ICT in the healthcare sector, and of course a huge support coming from government. We need to find the best way of how to benefit from technology while minimize all the risks associated with it.
EasyTrial: As I can notice you are a proponent of IT health and you believe that technology can change radically the healthcare system and ease the life of patients, doctors and nurses in some sense. But, if we talk about you as a researcher, an investigator, how did the technology impact on you from this perspective?
Mai-Britt: When I started to conduct these studies, I understood that I am in need of the tool which is going to ease the process of data gathering. For a while, I was using some usual, standard, perhaps someone will think even primitive forms of collecting the information from participants. However, I realized that this is not going to work in a long run perspective, especially when we talk about tens of patients from different sites taking part in my study.
EasyTrial: So, how did you manage to solve this issue?
Mai-Britt: I was lucky to meet one of my colleagues. She was also conducting a study and she recommended me to use a clinical trial management system (CTMS), EasyTrial. That time, I did not know anything about this system, but I decided to try it and I had subscribed myself to the demo version. From that moment my journey with this electronic system started. I was using demo for a while to see if EasyTrial is matching my needs and wishes. I was very happy to notice that the system was easy to use, takes not so much time to accommodate to and has many features which in my opinion are pretty important for any clinical investigation: randomization, export and import of the collecting data from participants, an overall study overview, communication with different study sites, high privacy and security of study data, easy access no matter of my location, compliance with the whole legislation and many more other features which I was discovering step by step, while I was continuing to work with it.
EasyTrial: You seem to be very happy with this system…
Mai-Britt: Definitely I am, since it really eases my work as a researcher and made the study more effective. As you can see, even in this area, the technology plays an important role and this is why I believe that the future of technology is going to be exciting.
EasyTrial: And finally, if the outcomes of your research are going to show that ICT has a huge impact on all stakeholders of this study: premature infants, their parents and health care personnel, what would be focus of your next studies?
Mai-Britt: Perhaps I would extend the focus group of my studies. I would like also to see how ICT is affecting other categories of patients: normally born children or children with different chronical diseases who are in need of close observation from doctors. I think that technology should be embraced and health care professionals together with patients need to be educated of how to uset it proper and benefit from it in the most effective way.
Mai-Britt is a PhD student at Aarhus University and a professional nurse in Naestved Hospital. Her research is on the effect and experience of PreHomeCare of preterm infants using telecommunication and a Smartphone Application.