Breaking the Siloes: Technology fostering Multi-Disciplinary Holism in Healthcare

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Specialisation in medicine has deepened scientific knowledge and produced efficacious interventions. This was a predicted curve in medical training and practice and has generally been perceived as highly advantageous.
The specialist pitches in when general treatment protocols fail to work and helps to effectively address specific issues. However, a stir is being created by practitioners who feel that super specialisation has caused a divide among professionals. The argument carries more substance when it is understood that varied professional expertise eventually converge at the treatment of a patient
Teaming Up

A super specialised expert or a general medical practitioner would not be able to design a holistic treatment strategy because their domain expertise and training are different from each other. Hence, there is a requirement of a team, rather than professionals working in siloes, to design and implement treatment. Multi-Disciplinary Team Meetings that attempt to foster unison, are being incorporated by institutions, as they have shown improved treatment outcomes. They are enjoying popularity in medical practice, especially in oncology, where they have become an essential part of the treatment protocol.
Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) have rearranged professionals with the patient at the centre, enabling an individualised and focused care. Though this seems to be an intuitively sound step towards a new quality standard, recent studies indicate that there is a need to supplement MDTs with technology which can enhance clinical decision making. Though Electronic Patient Records (EPRs) have helped in documentation, there is a dearth of evidence-based solutions which provide clinical insights.
Digitisation and AI

The digital revolution has proved to be an effective tool in capturing medical evidence. For instance, digital pathology, apart from improving the workflow in labs, can facilitate cloud sharing of medical information across different departments that are a part of the MDT. This can also allow the opinions of specialists, such as onco-pathologists, to be recognized and integrated in treatment proceedings.
Furthermore, the emergence of artificial intelligence in healthcare will bring about objectivity in medical data analysis. Apart from aiding the formulation of effective diagnosis, AI can empower MDTs to estimate the probabilities of differential diagnoses. Along with digitisation, it can facilitate cross-comparison between different medical reports of a patient to a generate comprehensive diagnostic profile. This helps MDTs combine various inputs to restructure interventions for better patient outcomes.
To understand the potential technology holds, one should observe how radiology has evolved. The MRI and the CT scan enable a 3D representation of the anatomy, which has greatly improved diagnosis and treatment, saving many lives. Now, histopathologists are using digital images to construct 3D visualisations of tumours to understand growth pattern.
Though MDTs aim to mitigate the isolation among specialised medical professionals and establish patient-centricity, the role of technology in augmenting such efforts seems essential. Enabling and enriching a holistic multi-disciplinary approach is the way forward to raise standards of quality in healthcare.

References

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Steele, Katherine, et al. “How I Do It: Examining the value of an otology multidisciplinary team meeting.” The Laryngoscope (2018).