While our articles have generally focused on policies and events here in the United States, today we are going to expand our focus to a more global perspective. The problems that individuals and communities face may be different from country to country, but there are common elements to be found. Some of the more universally common problems, such as homelessness and care for the elderly, will be addressed, as well as the role of technology in promoting person-centered care for these individuals. In addition, we will be discussing some innovative ways that communities are coming together to solve these problems. Our first example is Canada.
In Canada, the annual costs for homeless persons are $53,144. Of the money spent on the homeless, 48% is for healthcare. An additional 25% of the cost is related to legal issues, such as incarceration and court appearances, illustrating the wide-reaching effects of homelessness in numerous facets of society. One contributing factor is the number of elderly Canadians living in long-term care facilities. In addition to the $440 daily cost, the wait time can be up to six months. In larger cities the problem is even worse, such as Ontario where 32,000 seniors are on wait lists for long-term care. Due to the financial strain and the size of the waiting list, many of these residents become homeless. To help its homeless citizens, Canada is using the Housing First model that many communities in the United States are using. Housing First focuses on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing and then providing additional supports and services as needed.
In Britain, the homeless rate has risen 13% in the last year. Government welfare changes, including the introduction of Universal Credit and cuts to the housing benefit, have contributed to this recent increase. With one in every 200 residents homeless, private citizens have stepped forward to offer aide quickly. One restaurant in Manchester started leaving bags of to-go food on the sidewalk in front of their restaurant when they close. Word has spread among the homeless, and they know when and where they can obtain a hot meal. The restaurant has even set-up The Bosu Project to provide assistance beyond food, providing shelter and warmth for the homeless as winter begins. Another individual has launched a crowdfunding campaign for his app Greater Change. Through Greater Change, individuals can give cashless donations to organizations and charities in their community. The app ensures the donations go to where they are needed most, whether providing housing or covering healthcare costs. The government changes leading to this rise in homelessness have also hit the elderly with unanticipated consequences. As in Canada, seniors in Britain who need suitable assisted living are facing growing wait lists and healthcare they can’t afford. The increasing likelihood of receiving bills they are unable to pay for.
Focus on Person-Centered Care
Another area of common focus is coordination of care. It has been a key goal of these countries, as well as Canada, Britain, and the United States, as we try to improve the accessibility and efficiency of healthcare. Britain is focusing on person-centered care, as many of their residents are receiving health and social care services from multiple providers in different care settings. With their increasing population of residents over 65, the needs are growing more complex and sources of care more diverse. Seniors are increasingly moving between different providers and services, and Britain is introducing greater records sharing between a patient’s various clinics, along with “Integration, Pathways, and Place,” a program evaluating how well services work together. In Canada, their program promoting coordination of care is called “Experiencing Integrated Care.”
Integrated care in Canada is focused on patients 55 years and older who are transitioning from one health care provider to another, and where care coordination and communication are necessary. In both countries, reaching out to patients for their perspective on how well the various parts of the system are working together is a vital part of the process. A recent study from Britain has found that benefits of coordinated/integrated care include:
- Improved health and well-being for elderly populations needing end-of-life care
- Individual care plans that have been tailored to meet individual needs
- Reductions in unwanted hospital admissions
- Better trained workforces equipped to offer care
Innovative Health IT Solutions
The next region we wanted to highlight is Africa. With a population of 1.2 billion in 54 countries, it is more than double that of The United States, Canada, and Britain combined. The continent accounts for 25% of global disease cases, but has only 2-3% of the world’s doctors. To help increase access to healthcare, many African nations are turning to technology.
In Nigeria, the AMPIS (All Purpose Medical Information system) program is used to turn hard copies of medical data into electronic health records. Digitized patient records are also increasing, while machine learning is being used to educate patients and providers in the hopes to prevent disease through data mining and coordination. In 2014, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was difficult to contain due to the inability to capture and share data, a lesson many countries are learning from.
Uganda’s tens of thousands of government health care workers use MTRAC (Monitoring Essential Medicine Supply Using Mobile Phones and RapidSMS), an SMS-based technology connecting hospitals to national drug chains, enabling them to report on local medicine stocks using their mobile devices. Another software innovation, LifeChain, uses digital supply chain technology to deliver blood when and where it is needed in Nigeria’s largest city of Lagos, which has a population of 20 million. As the reach of digital technologies increase, countries across Africa are able to more efficiently to improve health outcomes for high-risk individuals, such as pregnant women and those with chronic diseases.
Countries across the globe are looking for solutions to common healthcare challenges. At the heart of all our efforts is the drive to improve the quality of care and overall well-being for individuals in our communities. Technology will continue to play a key role in solving the common and unique healthcare challenges found in different areas of the world. Eccovia Solutions applauds the efforts of communities everywhere for their efforts to provide person-centered care for the individuals who need it most.