While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant challenges for the delivery of healthcare services across the country; it has also highlighted shining lights of our health service and areas which are being heralded as possible game-changers in healthcare delivery in a COVID-19 environment.
One such example of this is the development of an electronic patient portal for people with epilepsy. The electronic patient portal has been developed by leading epilepsy researchers in Ireland and it is named PiSCES (Providing Individualised Services and care for People with Epilepsy). Many of our readers will be familiar with the portal as we were proud to provide research funding to examine the role of the e-portal in enhancing patient care back in 2018. You can read more on this here.
The basis behind the development of the e-portal is to foster a person and family centred care approach between the person with epilepsy and their healthcare professionals. It enables a person with epilepsy to take an active role in their care and users of the e-portal can access their clinic visit summaries and tools to report outcomes, such as frequency of seizures. The portal also allows people to track epilepsy care goals and send secure messages directly to their healthcare providers. All of this can be done via a smartphone or tablet device from the person's home. In a COVID-19 environment where face to face contacts are being limited and avoided wherever possible, the development of services such as the e-portal are being highlighted as potential pathways to continue and improve patient care.
In a recent paper published in renowned epilepsy medical journal - Epilepsia - researchers from the RCSI and FutureNeuro report how a likely outcome of the current pandemic will see the accleration of the adoption of services such as eportal for people with epilepsy.
The researchers note how "the current COVID‐19 pandemic stresses an urgency to accelerate much needed health service reform."
Pointing to the existing development of the eportal, the researchers explain "in the aftermath of COVID‐19, it is highly unlikely that the healthcare sector will return to a “business as usual” way of delivering services. The pandemic is expected to accelerate adoption of innovations like PiSCES. It is therefore a catalyst for change that will deliver care that is more responsive to individual patient needs and preferences."
Commenting on the findings of the study, eHealth lead at Futureneuro/RCSI, Dr. Mary Fitzsimons said, "Our work on the development of PiSCES patient portal for epilepsy began before the COVID-19 crisis with the aim of facilitating better patient and family-centred epilepsy care by improving the link between people with epilepsy and their clinicians. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the urgency to accelerate much-needed health service reform to implement innovations such as electronic patient portals. PiSCES has the capability to transform out-patient care for people with epilepsy, by maximising health service resources that may be constrained in the aftermath of the pandemic."
With Irish hospitals moving towards fewer outpatient appointments (e.g. St James's Hospital reduced outpatients by one-third in the first five months of 2020), there is little doubt that e-health is here to stay and we believe that the e-portal and its 'parent' Epilepsy Electronic Patient Record will become a pillar of the epilepsy service in Ireland. Congratulations to the research team and all involved in the development of this visionary service - the publication in Epilepsia is once again an acknowledgement of the innovative epilepsy research which is taking place right here in Ireland.