Picture the scene: your smartwatch buzzes to tell you to get up in the morning, and also what your calendar notifications are for the day. Alexa or Google Home is busy updating you on the weather, the latest news headlines, and your commute into work as your coffee machine is getting ready to pour you the perfect cup of Joe. You brush your teeth with that Bluetooth toothbrush and wander downstairs, each light going on and off automatically as you pass by, and grab your breakfast before jumping into your self-driving car to turn up at your workplace, surrounded by more tech, gadgets, and computing power than it took to get a man on the moon.
What’s missing here?
The answer is simple: better digital healthcare.
The Need For Digital Health
Our world is run by apps. We’re glued to our smartphones day in day out, and if it’s not a smartphone, it’s a smartwatch, or smart sneakers, smart doorbell, or smart… you get the picture. Everything seems to be ‘going smart’ except our healthcare.
If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that healthcare needs to adapt and modernize to fit with the new digital way of life, and there isn’t that much that needs to change. Better communication between health staff and patients could be one of the best things to come out of this pandemic.
As many student doctors and student nurses enter their respective colleges and universities to study the noble art of medicine, what will healthcare look like when they graduate? The answer could lie in the word digital.
The Benefits of Digital Healthcare
Telemedicine isn’t a word that’s been around very long, but almost everyone knows what it is now. Being able to remotely have a consultation with your doctor or healthcare provider is a great benefit for many patients, especially those with limited mobility who find it hard to make in-person appointments.
It’s not just patients who are winning either. More students are already choosing to take on higher qualifications, like an RN to MSN masters degree program, online, which means they will be fully competent at making the switch to remote medicine in the future. It also means they can work and study simultaneously.
Qualified doctors and nursing staff are also benefitting from remote medicine because patients are more likely to actually attend appointments. This means they can more accurately build a picture of their health and help to treat problems before they get bigger and more life-threatening.
An added bonus is that the mobile health industry is also booming, and it could reach almost $60 billion by the end of 2020.
The advantages of mobile and digital-first health may not be clear to everyone at first, but here are four great reasons why we need to invest in digital healthcare right now, for our current patients and our future patients.
Patients Feel More Comfortable At Home
Where is the best place to treat a patient? The answer is simple, somewhere they feel comfortable, and that usually means at home.
Back in the days of housecalls, patients being at home was a big problem for doctors and nurses who had to rely on out of date notes to keep up, but now with access to digital health and mobile health apps, a patient’s picture of health can be much more easily recorded and monitored, and even synchronized live!
While it may seem gimmicky, taking notes on a patient when they are comfortable gives a much clearer overall indicator of health. Medical professionals have long known about issues such as white coat syndrome which means patients give inaccurate readings in a hospital or medical setting, leading to the wrong prescriptions. Digital health apps could solve this problem once and for all.
If you want good healthcare, you need to move for it, right? Wrong! Now, with access to digital health apps, leading doctors, physicians, nurses, and medical professionals are just a fingertip away.
Instead of booking lengthy in-person appointments for things that could be sorted over video calls (such as an updated prescription or a pre-op discussion), time and energy can be saved by using digital health options like mobile apps and video conferencing to see patients quicker.
This is especially useful when considering mental health screenings when patients really need care at their fingertips and decent care, no matter their location.
IoT Integration For A Better Picture Of Health
When the first smartwatch with a pedometer came out, it was a revelation. Suddenly everyone was after a FitBit or other leading brand such as the Mi Band, but these haven’t been taken seriously by the medical profession until now.
With each generation, these wearable devices get smarter and smarter, and they also get more accurate. Now your Mi Band can connect to your Mi Scales, syncing with the Mi Fit app and Google Fit to give a great overall picture of health.
With wearable devices getting better, most can now distinguish between different activities (such as walking, running, yoga, cycling, and even swimming), measure heart rate, blood oxygen level, stress, and some bands even help women track their menstrual cycles.
All of this information is vital for medical professionals aiming to get a detailed history of their patients’ health and physical exercise, and with more IoT (Internet of Things) devices and wearable hitting the market every day, these health integrations are only set to get better as time goes by.
For most medical professionals, the very idea of patients knowing ‘too much’ about their health is a scary prospect. No practitioner likes a patient to begin their consultation with “I read on Google that…” but in recent years, this has become less of an issue, and more patients are taking real control of their health and wellbeing.
Health has become fashionable, and that’s excellent news. Whether it’s healthcare celebrities such as Mama Dr. Jones and Dr. Mike giving out great advice on YouTube, or a simple wearable that tells patients how many steps they have (or haven’t) done, being in control of your health as a patient can be empowering.
This is where the medical field needs to catch up and sync with patients. When a patient is able to track their physical activity, their sleep, their food intake (down to calories and nutritional makeup) and even their monthly cycles, it’s time medical professionals took notice and took this information into their clinics.
A great example of this is in weight-loss patients. If a patient is only doing 1000 steps a day and eating pizza for lunch, there’s a good chance some of their weight loss is easy to fix, but if they’re logging over 10,000 steps a day and honestly having a salad (skipping the dressing) every lunch, medical professionals should realize there is an issue that needs further investigation.
Giving patients the power to monitor their own health can be a great way to engage them and change their lives.
Healthcare is facing a huge change, both in the way patients access healthcare and in the way healthcare professionals communicate. By investing in health apps and digital services, we can streamline that care and hopefully save lives.