Health and beauty

eHealth, what it is, how it is done and what advantages it ensures – Economyup

The Covid-19 pandemic has severely tested the resilience of our healthcare system and has given an unprecedented acceleration to some trends so far only hinted at in Italy, such as telemedicine andInternet of Medical Things. The pervasive digitalization of health services, often referred to as eHealth, opens the door to new models of access to care that place the patient at the center of more virtuous and personalized paths. Paths marked by a more efficient management of public spending, improving the quality of life of chronic patients, strengthening local medical services.

Cos’è l’eHealth

In recent months, there has often been talk of indiscriminate cuts in national health spending as one of the main causes of the high mortality rate of Covid patients in our country. And many are asking for a change of pace, invoking new models of prevention and treatment that are more effective and efficient. New approaches to be included in the category of digital health or eHealth, which involve the use of new applications, devices and digital infrastructures at various levels in managing the relationship with the patient. The European Union defines theeHealth as the compendium of “Tools and services that use ICT technologies to improve prevention, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring and management of health and lifestyle”. A very broad umbrella, therefore, often identified as networked health or connected health, to underline the central role of connectivity and, in particular, of new generation mobile networks such as 5G in supporting these innovative healthcare scenarios through completely digitized and personalized, from prevention to follow up.

What are the benefits of eHealth

And recent Market Data Forecast report estimates that global eHealth turnover will rise from the current $ 12.9 billion to over $ 26 billion in 2025, with an annual growth of 14.8% over the five-year period. An increase sustained by the need to more effectively support public health efficiency paths, but also by the opportunity to move the focus of patient care ever closer to home, planning a more innovative and efficient territorial medicine.

EHealth ensures undoubted benefits to the community, to individual patients and to healthcare personnel. It cuts the cost of delivery without compromising on the quality of performance. Furthermore, it allows to overturn the perspective of public health management, shifting the focus from the treatment of pathologies to their prevention. Finally, it improves the quality of life (and hospital stay) of the patient, who will be better informed about their health conditions and will also benefit from more accurate diagnoses and less invasive therapeutic treatments.

The pillars of online healthcare

The scope of eHealth is very broad and includes very different technologies and applications, ideally grouped into three macro areas. There digitization of care processes, through a mobile App and software platforms that allow you to monitor the patient’s health remotely in a timely manner and in real time. Predictive approaches for the precision medicine, which, thanks to the help of Big Data analysis technologies and artificial intelligence, ensure greater consistency in the decision-making processes of doctors and specialists – diagnosis and definition of therapeutic plans – accelerating the healing process and reducing the number of examinations and consultations charged to the national health system. Finally, theoptimization of clinical procedures through the centralized and real-time management of patient information, robotics, the implementation of intelligent and connected approaches of the Internet of Medical Things. Between remote applications, on site and Internet of Medical Things, here are the most common use cases in Italy:

  • Electronic medical record and Electronic Health Record
    The digitization of hospital admission records allows centralizing the management of information on the patient and on the course of his hospital stay. This data will thus be easily accessible and shared among all specialists – doctors and nurses – who take turns in patient care. The Electronic Health Record, on the other hand, is the online database that collects citizens’ health data in a digitized format. But it is also a container of more advanced services ranging from the possibility of booking and canceling appointments at public or affiliated health facilities to that of choosing or changing the family doctor.
  • Preventive medicine and optimized treatment pathways
    The application of artificial intelligence algorithms to the data collected during the first visit or check-up improves the accuracy of the diagnosis and allows the definition of optimized therapeutic paths. In the same way, preventive medicine pathways, which represent a pillar of eHealth, are strengthened by optimizing early screening activities. Through the same technological system it is possible to estimate the post-operative course, identifying the patients who are most likely to develop complications, thus preparing suitable early intervention procedures.
  • High definition video consultations
    Teleconsultations are already quite widespread in Italy. In fact, several private health groups began offering these services during the first lockdown. And they continue to do so today, to meet the needs of patients who are afraid of going to health facilities for a visit. The specialist, in connection with the patient through a smartphone app, will be able to carry out screening and check-ups through a visual diagnosis (the mapping of moles in dermatology, just to give an example).
  • Telemonitoraggio
    Remote patient monitoring is crucial to building a more efficient healthcare facility. In the treatment of chronic diseases, for example, the use of wearable devices in combination with a smartphone app allows you to continuously acquire, and in real time, data relating to relevant parameters without patients having to go by general practitioners or in hospital. eHealth means improving the quality of life of these patients and reducing the costs borne by the national health system.
  • Monitoring of therapeutic adherence
    Adherence to therapy can be a challenge for the healthcare sector. It is especially so for some elderly or cognitively impaired patients who easily forget to take their prescribed medications. A problem that can be overcome if therapeutic adherence monitoring solutions are used. These smartphone apps link pharmacist, doctor and patient in video to ensure that the latter takes the drug dosage prescribed at the right time and in the manner indicated.
  • Distraction and innovative rehabilitation therapies
    In the field of eHealth, augmented reality and virtual reality technologies also find ample space. They are, in fact, used successfully to improve the experience of patients in rehabilitation therapy. The use of VR viewers promotes relaxation of amputees, relieving the pain of the phantom limb. The same technologies make it possible to entertain children while waiting for the administration of a vaccine or a therapy, distracting them, and reduce the anxiety of dying patients admitted to hospices.
  • Smart surveillance of psychiatric patients
    In hospitals and psychiatric centers it is possible to use video analysis in real time not only in patient rooms, but also in corridors and common areas. In this way, the healthcare staff will be sure of being promptly alerted to the occurrence of unusual behavior or accidental falls.
  • Telementoring e remote surgery
    Telementoring, or proctoring, refers to the use of collaborative platforms where a specialist, proctor, assists and supports the surgeon and the medical team in the operating room. Thanks to augmented reality and real-time interaction between proctor and surgeon, patient-specific outcomes per operation are improved. With telesurgery, then, the concept of eHealth is further expanded: thanks to the aid of a 3D viewer and a pair of remotely controlled robotic manipulators, in fact, the surgeon will be able to perform an operation from a remote location.
  • Drones for the rapid transport of organs and blood
    Some experiments have demonstrated the effectiveness of drones for the rapid transport of explanted organs in emergency, the delivery of blood bags and swabs.
  • Connected ambulances
    Connected ambulances help emergency services achieve ever more ambitious goals. On the way to the emergency room, the operators are able to collect a series of relevant information on the patient’s vital parameters and his clinical situation. The data, acquired through IoT devices, are immediately transferred to the operations center and hospital emergency room. In this way, hospital staff will have the opportunity to better understand the patient’s overall health status even before his arrival. Therefore, it is the overall efficiency of the emergency services that benefits, because in some critical situations even a fraction of a second can save a life.

The benefits of 5G in healthcare

5G is one of the main technological enablers of the eHealth healthcare revolution. Even if many applications are already usable with the help of current 4G and 4.5G connections, the new generation mobile networks will allow to project digital health initiatives on a much larger scale. But what are the characteristics of 5G that make it the ideal communication infrastructure for digital health?

  • Latency: the response time of less than 10 milliseconds ensures speed in connections which is essential especially in telemonitoring and remote surgery.
  • Banda: Average data transfer of 100 Mbps with peaks of 20 Gbps, ideal for video streaming applications and transmission of high resolution images.
  • Indoor penetration: excellent transmission quality inside buildings and underground, ideal for offering quality connectivity even to large hospitals and older structures.
  • Density: up to 1 million connected objects per square kilometer, a density unthinkable with any other technology.
  • Reliability of the network: equal to 99.999% to guarantee maximum communication stability. This is a fundamental aspect, for example, in distance surgery or remote surgery.
  • Consumption: significantly reduced energy consumption (90% less for each bit transmitted compared to 4G networks) and, as a consequence, extension of the battery life of smart medical devices – typically wearable equipped with a mobile SIM.

Vodafone 5G per l’eHealth

For several years Vodafone has been at the forefront of 5G experimentation in Italy and, in particular, in Milan, with 41 active projects in various domains – Industry 4.0, video surveillance, smart energy and smart city. The initiatives implemented in the eHealth field are numerous and varied. Vodafone with the Humanitas clinical institute in Milan and Exprivia has created an innovative teleradiology project: medical specialists and technicians who work in two different locations are now able to collaborate remotely during and after the exams, sharing images and videos in very high resolution, in real time and on the move, thanks to the Vodafone 5G network. The solution proved to be particularly useful for guaranteeing the operational continuity of the radiology unit during the Covid-19 emergency, minimizing the movement of doctors between one location and another. The innovative project carried out in collaboration with the San Raffaele Institute in Milan, on the other hand, focuses on remote surgery. Thanks to Vodafone’s 5G network, a surgeon was able to operate a patient from a remote location using remotely controlled lasers and manipulative forceps.

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