Digital technologies and data health keys
Media Release

ATSE tackles the crisis in ageing

14 August 2017

Australia needs to embrace digital health technologies and focus on data integration and standardisation.

But a major challenge to optimising these technologies is cost – and unless these technologies are subsidised by the government, only a small proportion of the population will be able to afford these treatments, creating equity issues in the healthcare system.

These are key findings from the 2017 ATSE National Technology Challenges Dialogue: The Crisis in Ageing - Technology to manage the challenges in healthcare, which is the theme of the latest issue of ATSE Focus (#203, August).

But technology is only part of the answer, writes Associate Professor Sonia Wutzke, Head of the Analysis and Evaluation Division of the Sax Institute and Deputy Director of the Australian Prevention Partnership Centre.

She says that health technology has an important role to play but only if integrated as part of a deliberately coordinated portfolio of actions that recognises and impacts on the complexity of chronic disease.

Tackling the whole system – where people live, work and play – will help us to create an environment that supports people to make better health decisions and avoid chronic disease,” she writes.

Enabled by digital technologies, healthcare will quickly be globalised, as health consumers seek more accessible, higher-quality and more affordable healthcare, writes Mr Tim Blake, advocate for ‘engaged’ patients.

“Engaged patients see themselves as equal partners with their doctors in the healthcare process. Engaged patients gather information about medical conditions that impact them and their families, using digital tools in coping with medical conditions.

“Patient engagement is ultimately about improving patient heath behaviours and literacy, relative to where those things sit today,” he writes.

“It’s about shifting people up the behavioural and health literacy curve.”

Dr Stephen Beirne, an additive fabrication leader from the University of Wollongong, sees the field of medicine as being the most impacted by the massive, and growing, 3D printing industry.

“We are in an exciting time – a time where developments, innovations and significant breakthroughs are occurring at an exhilarating pace,” he writes.

“It is a pace which can only increase, spurred on with further advances in complementary technologies and materials.

“Right now, it is critical that researchers, clinicians, industry and regulators work together to ensure that there are pathways for these personalised treatments to reach patients and, in turn, benefit our national health systems.

We are on the verge of a new era that could enable more of our elderly population to stay at home longer, while providing peace of mind to family and doctors, writes IBM research leader Dr Priscilla Rogers.

“With AI (artificial intelligence) technology that can understand tone and emotion, we could be well on our way to keeping our seniors in their homes as long as possible, while helping them feel more connected and supported.”

Most people are still not fully engaged with the idea of having technology rather than human beings to assist them, write Deakin University research leaders Professor Rajesh Vasa and Ms Maheswaree Curumsing.

“One of the main issues regarding to the adoption of these technologies are linked to the way people perceive the technology – concerns around privacy and confidentiality are recurrent in many studies.

Describing a Deakin-developed smart home technology for digital assisted living, called SofiHub, they note their studies reveal two main issues:

  • older adults feel lonely living by themselves; and
  • technology that considers the emotional aspects in its design are critical to ensure acceptance, especially within the context of a home.

ATSE Focus is the Academy of Technology and Engineering’s bi-monthly issues magazine.