VIRTUAL visits by doctors and nurses and remote monitoring of patients at home will form part of future healthcare, reducing use of hospitals, nursing homes and GP surgeries, a report predicts.

The HealthCast 2010 report, by PwC consultants, forecasts more customised care for the individual, re-direction of funding to reward quality outcomes rather than the number of procedures carried out, a far greater role for technology, an increase in medical tourism and less tolerance of those who engage in unhealthy behaviour.

The report warns that unless resources are targeted at individuals early in life to encourage the adoption of healthy lifestyles, the predicted explosion in chronic disease such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease will create “liabilities for future generations”.

Dr Donal Landers, PwC healthcare consultant, said there had to be “a shift in funding from sickness to wellness”.

“Most of the funding is focused on the acute hospital after the patient has had an event. We have got to get to people earlier; that will affect the outcomes in chronic disease,” Dr Landers said.

Dr Landers said if the current funding model continued in tandem with a growing, ageing population with greater levels of chronic disease, then the money would simply run out. The system “doesn’t incentivise on the basis of outcomes”, Dr Lander said, adding that this was “not unique to Ireland”.

In addition, individuals would have to be encouraged to take more responsibility for managing chronic disease, Dr Landers said.

The PwC global survey of health industry leaders and Governments found patients’ lack of willpower was cited as the biggest barrier to individuals actively managing their health.

However, almost three quarters of those surveyed (74%) believe that unhealthy behaviour will become increasingly unacceptable in their country.

PwC also found that while many health systems claimed to deliver patient-centred care, this was only evident in pockets.

“Health organisations remain too focused on their own organisations, not what’s best for the patient. Patient-centred care takes health systems out of their comfort zones, forcing them to integrate people, technologies and organisations that are not part of their current routines,” the report said.

The report also found there is “a big job” to be done in patient education through proper communication of health information and risks.

Over three-quarters (76%) surveyed agreed lack of knowledge and access to reliable health information keeps individuals from managing their health.

Speaking at the launch Health Minister Mary Harney said the findings of the report were in line with work her department is leading to improve patient safety and drive up the quality of health care.

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