Over the last decade, technology in the healthcare sector has been developing at a rapid pace, bringing with it increased efficiency and effectiveness in the treatment of patients. Technological upgrades have impacted the management of practices, how patients are managed and how you, as a patient yourself, can manage your own health.
Digital health has overhauled the health system all over the world. Terms like mHealth, telehealth, health informatics, and eHealth are used to describe the technology that allows healthcare to become more efficient, more accurate, quicker, and more affordable. Statistics show that the world of eHealth will be worth over $38 billion by 2025, with the leading factor in such rapid growth being smartphones and mobile devices.
So, what does this mean for you? How will this evolution and increased funding in digital health impact you, as a patient? We unpacked some of the key areas in which digital health will actually start having a positive impact on your life.
Your Information and Data Will Be Easily Available
This may seem a bit ominous, as we are all incredibly wary of our personal information being available for everyone’s eyes. But the fact is, key data is actually vital for the understanding of the conditions and severity of conditions in various populations. Not only this, but healthcare can become incredibly privatized.
Imagine the perfect doctor for a minute. This is the practitioner who will know everything about you without even knowing you. You will not need to spend the first fifteen minutes of the appointment rattling through your entire medical history. They will also have key information relating to your current symptoms right in front of you.
Not only does this make the whole process more effective and efficient, but your diagnosis will be more accurate too. Let’s look at it a little more. Say your regular GP cannot assist further and needs to refer you to a specialist. Electronic health records mean that this information can easily be shared with the specialist so that they can have instant access to your vital information.
This means streamlined information sharing between hospitals, practitioners, and medical outlets for your effective treatment. If you want to know more about this, take a look at the FHIR report, which delves more into electronic health records.
Doctor’s Visits Could Be A Thing Of The Past
In saying this, we are not discounting the fact that physical diagnosis and face-to-face appointments will not become totally redundant. Rather, they could be fewer and further between. With the introduction and rapid growth of online communication and video calling, the healthcare industry has started taking a turn toward digital. Not only are Zoom meetings now commonplace in business and between colleagues, but in the medical field too.
An upsurge of Zoom appointments has been seen, especially during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing was encouraged. Non-life threatening and common conditions could be diagnosed over video calling and conferencing between practitioner and patient, reducing the cost of the appointment, time spent ascertaining a diagnosis.
Video consultations are expected to grow significantly in the near future, especially in fields such as the mental health industry. Appointments and consultations can be quickly and easily booked and fulfilled with a practitioner online and the patient can expect emergency assistance from online practitioners almost instantaneously.
It Will Be More Affordable
This is what everyone wants to hear. More affordable healthcare. Healthcare costs for families living in the US are the highest in the world. Research shows that healthcare costs per family have increased 31 fold over the last few decades. Not only does this mean that most families are severely lacking basic healthcare, but it has created a health crisis in the country.
Digital health aims to change the tide of healthcare. As we just mentioned, the introduction of video conferencing and telehealth will significantly drop the cost of appointments and practitioner visits. As will the sharing of key data and information between practitioners, which will reduce the amount of time making a diagnosis and care plan.
Another contributing factor will be the digitalization of office management for the practitioners. A fully digital management system will mean that everything from appointment scheduling to billing and the storing and management of patient information will all be digitally managed. This will streamline the process, reduce the amount of paper documentation, and lags in communication between patient and doctor.
In the next few years, augmented reality and artificial intelligence will also be playing a key role in patient treatment, which is expected to reduce costs even further.
Smart Devices Could Save Your Life
The last thing we thought we would look at is the rapid growth of smart and mobile devices in healthcare. Here, we are talking about how things like smartwatches and mobile devices can be used in the day-to-day management of an individual’s health and lifestyle. In addition, wearables can be extended to wearable ECG and blood pressure monitors as well as biosensors for real-time health management.
Information gathered from wearable technology can be used to ascertain the patient’s health behaviors, including heart rate, sleep patterns, physical activity, and calorie burn. This information can be stored and examined by the practitioner to improve the diagnosis of the patient’s condition. Monitoring these key data can also assist in the preventative treatment of various conditions. Should the patient’s heart rate rapidly increase, or vitals suddenly change, the practitioner will have real-time and accurate data on hand to effectively treat the condition.
Lastly, this wearable technology is expected to assist patients in altering emergency services in a crisis. Should a rapid change in a heartbeat be picked up, for example, a real-time alert can be sent to the relevant parties, and help dispatched to assist the patient.
With the continuing increase and development of technology in the healthcare sector, insurers will most likely lessen the cost, per person of healthcare. The future of healthcare looks to combine data seamlessly via wearable and AI technology, easing the workload on medical practitioners. Real-time health data and access to medical history will increase accuracy and effectiveness, improving the overall healthcare of individual patients.