Smart apps, web based platforms, AI diagnosis support, telemedicine and more other digital tools are part of the therapeutic arsenal available nowadays to doctors to interact and serve much more patients. Digital health has drastically transformed how doctors practice medicine nowadays!
You’re feeling a little under the weather for the past two days. Popping an aspirin isn’t helping, so you decide to seek medical advice. You turn to your phone and search for a GP in your area. You connect with one, over video chat. The GP looks at your medical history online and suggests a treatment plan. He shares your prescription with your nearest pharmacy, who delivers the medicines to your doorstep. Your phone keeps tabs on your medicine intake and sends your progress report to the doctor. In just a few days, you’re back on your feet and on your way.
This scenario isn’t some scene out of the future. This is innovation happening right now, in the healthcare space. This is what happens when the 2Ds of healthcare – Digital + Doctor – come together to improve patient compliance.
The rise of the Digital Doctor:
Given the sophistication of 21st-century technology, how could our health care system be changed to better cope with the population it serves?
An efficient healthcare system of the future should empower medical practitioners and patients. It should be able to detect early warning signs that may indicate illness or behaviour that is likely to lead to poor health. For example, reduced physical activity, missed medication or appointments, social isolation, trips and falls at home. Systems could be designed to contact and alert clinicians or carers without further human intervention.
While a meeting with a GP for most people these days is fleeting and lasts only a few minutes, even that short time could be more meaningful. Armed with data gathered from sensors in your home, your wearable devices and mobile phone, the doctor could, with the push of a button, run advanced data analytics designed to make sense of this information about lifestyle, physical activities, social habits, adherence to medication regimes or sleep patterns and their health implications. The decisions they make would then be based on far more data than would otherwise be available – all within the limited time available for consultation. More informed decisions that involve the patient could lead to a better outcome for all.
In simple terms, patient engagement consists of a two-way interaction between clinicians and patients to improve health. In a broader context, patient engagement is a collaborative process in which patients are given the knowledge, skills, and resources to become active participants in their own health care management. This includes improved access to health information, shared decision-making, and greater connectivity with care teams. We can facilitate engagement by integrating technology into our interactions with patients. Many hospitals have already established patient portals allowing people to access their medical records, refill prescriptions, make appointments, and send messages to their doctor. This is an excellent start; however, portals themselves do not create deep engagement or encourage behavioral change. Currently, most patient engagement tools are implemented without understanding how or why patients should engage with them. Greater attention needs to be given to the user experience and interface of these technologies, striving to keep these devices relevant, simple, and seamlessly woven into patients’ daily lives. Interoperability between vendors will also be required to make real advances.
Opportunities exist to apply engagement technology in a more comprehensive and meaningful way. For example, wearables, home monitoring devices, and mobile health technology could support patients in goal setting and provide actionable patient-generated data to improve outcomes. If implemented well, 24/7 online care and sophisticated data analytics could greatly improve timely access to health services and influence healthy lifestyle choices. A growing number of patients express willingness to connect with their doctors digitally.
In the future we may see a reversal where medical records and patient portals are supplanted by robust patient engagement platforms, equipped with collaborative medical documents maintained by the patient who grants access to their health care professionals as needed.
Embracing patient empowerment, along with health technologies that support self-care, will ultimately improve our ability to interact with our patients and enhance the quality of care.
Please comment below on how do you see the future of healthcare with new digital tools available…