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What Does The Future Hold For Healthcare?

In a technology-driven future, healthcare organizations must undergo fundamental changes if they are to meet today’s global challenges.

The global healthcare industry is on the cusp of a major transformation as an array of new technologies conspire to disrupt the way we give and receive care in the 21st century.

Consider this. A human embryo’s DNA is “edited” to remove a disease. Surgeons practise neonatal heart procedures on 3D-printed anatomical models. And, for the first time, a drone has delivered a kidney to a transplant patient who had been waiting several years for a donor. These awe-inspiring scenarios have all recently unfolded in what is heralded as the dawn of innovation healthcare.

WHO Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the 75th World Health Assembly last week: “Let me start with our efforts to see one billion people enjoying better health and well-being. Our projection is that we will almost reach this target by 2023, but progress is only about one quarter of what is required to reach the relevant Sustainable Development Goals targets. Still, there are encouraging trends and successes to celebrate.”

These new trends could have significant implications for how our health systems are run and how healthcare facilities of the future are staffed, sized and designed. Demographic and economic changes, coupled with advancing technologies and growing consumerism, are allowing more healthcare services to take place in outpatient settings, freeing up inpatient hospital care for more complex cases. So how does this impact healthcare as we know it? And how do we reconcile these new trends while maintaining patient safety and health?

The need to improve the provision of healthcare is being looked into by ISO’s technical committee ISO/TC 304, Healthcare organization management. Designed to ensure effective, efficient, timely, risk-minimized and safe care that is people-centred, a future standard (ISO 7101) will give clinicians, patients and caregivers the structure and clarity they need as they settle into this fascinating era in healthcare.

So what might healthcare look like globally ten years from now?

Too Many Standards

So what might healthcare look like globally ten years from now? The technical committee is bringing together experts from all areas of healthcare delivery, including clinicians, hospital administrators, ministries of health and quality experts, to examine topics such as healthcare planning, risk management, equity and vulnerable populations, and workforce training. The ambition is to share knowledge gained from different healthcare models to create a set of recognized standards for high-quality healthcare organization management that can be used to improve health systems and patient outcomes everywhere in the world.

Angela McCaskill, a registered nurse and Director of Communications and Audit Programs at the Healthcare Standards Institute, is project leader of the ISO/TC 304 working group for the new standard. “When I began to research global healthcare quality, I noticed that there are numerous best-practice publications from universities, health organizations and NGOs, but these ideas did not seem to be shared or implemented globally.” The goal, she says, is for ISO to produce a standard that can be readily adopted and understood around the world so that it can be referenced by individuals, stakeholders, governments and funders alike.

As things currently stand, healthcare organizations and funders are acknowledging that the quantity of output is irrelevant if the quality is so poor as to not make a lasting difference. The project led by the ISO experts thus aims to create a healthcare quality management system standard that can be used by any healthcare organization of any size, and with varying resources, anywhere in the world.

Shaping a World Of Healthcare

Convenor for healthcare quality standards, Prof. Adam Layland, a paramedic and senior leader of the UK’s National Health Service, says the new ISO standard is needed more than ever at this time. “Healthcare organizations have faced a triple threat for years, namely decreasing financial resources, workforce shortages and ageing populations.” With proven experience of management in healthcare – he chaired the UK committee on healthcare organization management – he believes ISO’s expertise can’t come soon enough to redress the balance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of delivering healthcare in new and different ways. Prof. Layland believes this latest health issue could spark positive change in healthcare around the world. “We have an opportunity to help each other achieve the best health outcomes possible. The development of this new standard will improve the care delivered by our fantastic healthcare workers and help overcome the healthcare threats we collectively face. This standard is for the world, and we have the world helping to develop it.”

With a global consensus, organizations will be able to show their commitment to quality, continuous improvement and policies that are supported by outcome-focused goals and metrics. Data collected will measure performance and provide evidence to interested stakeholders. This will ultimately support the sharing of best practice used in hospital and care facilities across every country, to help improve the care that patients receive all around the world.

There has never been such a pressing need in modern history for the work of ISO/TC 304.

Call to Action

For this reason, the standard needs all the global input it can get. New participant countries are invited to swell the ranks of ISO/TC 304 to help develop a standard that has a positive impact for patients the world over. With this in mind, McCaskill says that they have had great success attracting experts from all of the OECD country income categories and have made a focused effort to include voices from the Global South. Some of these countries include Ghana, Malawi, Cameroon, Nigeria and Brazil. “This is one of our biggest opportunities and it is vital to the accessibility, applicability and success of the standard that it represents a global population,” she says. “There are life-changing, valuable lessons to be learned from one another, which are independent of our economic status.”

McCaskill readily admits that the process does take some time. However, she also believes that there has never been such a pressing need in modern history for the work of ISO/TC 304. “We do not underestimate the amount of work a standard such as this requires and we already have a strong and committed team who have worked tirelessly for the past 16 months. But we constantly seek collaboration and knowledge from any country or organization that is interested in advancing the quality of healthcare or wishes to share their best practices.” This is vital to our success and will help ISO to create a truly world-leading, impactful standard.

Disclaimer: PECB has obtained permission to publish the articles written by ISO.

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