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“Good communication and interoperability between different care services avoids patients making unnecessary trips and promotes greater satisfaction with the system”

“Good communication and interoperability between different care services avoids patients making unnecessary trips and promotes greater satisfaction with the system”

We interview Oscar Pablos, GP at the Sant Quirze del Vallès Primary Care Centre and Secretary of Primary Care for the Catalan Doctor's Union.

On 15 February, a work session took place within the ECAP-ERGO Project framework, an initiative of the TIC Salut Social Foundation, instigated by the Ministry of Health, to conduct an analysis and assessment of eCAP. This would lead to identifying potential areas of improvement in regard to its usability and acceptance by health professionals. We interviewed a professional who attended the event, Doctor Òscar Pablos. Pablos is a GP at Sant Quirze de Vallès Primary Care Centre and Secretary of Primary Care for the Catalan Doctor’s Union.

During the interview with Òscar Pablos, we talked about what a work session of this kind entails. We also looked at the impact of new technologies on an increasingly ageing population, as well as the digital tools that could improve the quality of life for these patients in the short, medium and long term.

  • As a GP, what impact do you observe new technologies have on the patients who come to your surgery?

When discussing the impact of technology on citizens, it is vital to know the user or patient profile you are dealing with. For patients over the age of 75, which is a profile on the increase due to the ageing population, I am not sure how interested they would be to receive information via email or WhatsApp. When elderly people request an appointment with a doctor, they want to be seen by a doctor, face-to-face. However, younger people, under the age of 35, often cannot see the point in travelling to the doctor’s to be told that tests they requested have come back fine. Therefore, we need to segment patient profiles and adapt our service for everyone’s needs so that we do not generate inefficiency.

  • What is the impact of a significant ageing population in this equation?

We are living in a time of demographic change, which is characterised by chronic diseases. Increasingly, people live longer and with better health than in previous decades. However, elderly patients have a range of diseases and need a variety of medicines. Generally, they need support to a greater or lesser degree from their family and/or social services. The family members concerned might be younger, and I can communicate with them digitally, rather than in person. And this is where a problem emerges. There needs to be patient confidentiality, while giving that patient the right to make their own decisions. But at the same time, we need to be able to communicate and send information.

  • It is the same with teenagers.

Absolutely. Catalonia is a pioneer in applying the law known as “the mature minor”. From the age of 16, minors have almost full autonomy to decide what information concerning their health they authorise to be shared by professionals. Therefore, they have an ideal patient profile for receiving information by email, but adequate care is taken to prevent their rights from being infringed.

  • How can technology help to improve patients’ experience of their relationship with healthcare?

If we recover the age profile of the elderly, good communication and interoperability between the various systems of care is fundamentally important. There needs to be direct, quick and real communication between the A&E hospital services the patient uses, the Primary Healthcare Centre emergency service and the patient’s own Primary Healthcare Centre. Therefore, if information is shared in a secure digital environment, professionals will have direct access to all the information compiled about a particular patient who will not have to visit several health centres carrying a folder and bag of medicine, as was customary some 10 to 15 years ago. The fewer unnecessary trips they need to make, the more satisfied they will be with the system.

  • How is this achieved?

We need resources. Not only digital tools, which already exist, but also human resources. In the next 10 years, approximately 30% of doctors will retire. New professionals that start to work in healthcare will be from a younger generation and they will be experts in using these types of apps, which will result in users being more at ease and able to use healthcare services more efficiently. But if we do not ensure they have enough time, or if they have too great a workload to use these tools to their full potential, the apps might be underused.

  • Lastly, how do you rate a work session like the one held at the TICSalut Foundation?

I thought the work session was fantastic. Being able to discuss your own vision of frontline workers but also other colleagues’ visions, for whom we have collected their opinions to discuss, and to do so directly with IT managers, increases feelings of involvement in the initiative. This is important, as sometimes decisions are made about tools without taking into account the workers who are going to use them. I am aware it isn’t always simple, and less so in a publicly owned enterprise of more than 30,000 workers. For this reason, work sessions like these that give professionals the chance to express themselves, provide constructive criticism and discuss areas for improvement make us feel that the tools we will use have been adapted for us by the professionals who will use them.

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