The rise in use of electronic healthcare resources was inevitable. Everywhere you look today, you can see how well technology dominates most industries. Your life; public and private, has been impacted by this rapid spread of digitalization.
At the start of medical practice, doctors cared for patients with limited tools and a finite mental capacity. However, with the advent of the internet and modern technology, medical information has transferred into digital forms. This information can now be accessed by medical professionals and patients at the tip of the fingertips.
The healthcare industry has embraced digitalization as part of its strategy for effectively providing medical solutions. Let's briefly see how this all began.
How the Digitalization of Medicine Started
During the 19th Century, it became evident that the number of qualified physicians was limited to effectively meet the health needs of people. At the time, only a handful of medical professionals existed. The rise in local populations meant medical care had to be dispensed quicker and more efficiently.
Research carried out by the World Health Organization (W.H.O) shows that there is indeed a shortage of about 2.3 million qualified medical practitioners worldwide to effectively solve health-related issues. By 2010, digitalization in medicine became a necessity. In spite of this urgency, the healthcare industry seemed slow in embracing digitalization. Still, there have been some remarkable changes in areas of the industry where hardware and software products have been given a chance.
Ground-breaking technologies began to emerge. These included; genomics, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. In addition, there are online communities, medical information blogs, as well as access to clinical studies and research. This benefits both the patient and the physician. In fact the patient now has information to provide basic self-care. In this way, they partner with doctors regarding decisions affecting their health.
Now that we know the benefits of digitalization in medicine, let’s cite a few examples.
Examples of Digitalization in Medicine
If you head over to the App Store on your phone, you will notice that there is literally an app for everything. These apps help you carry out and automate tasks. Health services have become more accessible, less expensive, and have definitely yielded better results. Below, we will highlight some apps for healthcare professionals, patients, and wearable technology in general.
Apps for Healthcare Professionals
Being a doctor is a demanding profession. High degrees of accuracy are required in patient diagnosis, treatment and after-care. Fortunately, technology has come to the rescue and the benefits of mobile health apps are embraced by all parties, including health professionals.
The following apps are just to name a few:
This is a medical app that is connected with the SIDLY Care Band. It’s compatible with both IOS and Android devices and uses agile methodology. It helps health professionals, including doctors and senior health assistants, monitor patient health. The app measures every critical piece of patient data in a user friendly way. In addition, here are some further key features:
- In-built remote checking of patients’ health
- Instant SOS notification in emergencies
- Customizable, user friendly interface
This app was developed by very experienced app developers. It is also notable for being featured on reputable platforms such as the Health Tech Insider.
This app has an accurate database of illnesses, including infectious and non-infectious, oral diseases, and others. You can also learn about drugs and their effects to avoid future complications. You can access it on iOS and Android devices.
- 3D4Medical apps:
This app allows medical practitioners to check out human anatomy using the most recent 3D technology. You can explore the human body; zooming in close on parts you need to see. That way, you have a more detailed insight into the human body rather than just theory.
Healthcare Apps for Patients
There are benefits of mobile health apps for patients too. This has been a source of real empowerment as more people take control of their health. The following are a few of these apps that are of benefit to patients:
Center for Disease Control (CDC) developed a fully-functional library. It contains medical information, journals, public health blogs, trending news feeds; and disease tracking information. These can be accessed via the CDC Mobile Application.
Changes in urine color can be observed through this app. By observation, certain conditions like urinary tract infections and diabetes can be detected. The app uses urine dipsticks and the phone camera to help patients assess and record their urinalysis.
- Healthy Heart 2
This app allows for you to check and record pulse rate, blood pressure, cholesterol level, blood glucose, and lots more. Using this app, you can further analyze your data in a graph format and share it with your doctor for a more detailed analysis. Patients who are at a high risk of heart disease can use this to keep track of their health.
- Pain Coach (WebMD):
Learning about your pain triggers is an excellent alternative to simply resorting to pain killers. As a patient, you can learn more about chronic pain as well as identify and manage its triggers. WebMD has a pool of medical information that serves as a guide for patients. You can receive quality advice and invaluable knowledge about several health conditions.
Several wearable technologies have been produced to help keep track of your health. Electronic devices such as smartwatches collect the details of your personal health and exercise levels. This includes:
- Biosensors which collect data of your movement, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature. This occurs while you move around. The advantage of this is that it helps you accurately track your health.
- Wearable ECG Monitors help you measure your electrocardiogram. It then sends the reading to your doctor. The monitors can also assist in tracking your pace, distance, and elevation.
- Smart Health Watches lets you do tasks on the watch rather than your phone. Most of all, it tracks your fitness goals.
- Fitbit Flex keeps track of your physical activity as well as your heart rate. It can be used to keep you in check on a daily basis.
Are there drawbacks to medical digitalization?
As with most things, there are indeed drawback(s), including disadvantages of health apps:
- Medical professionals who are resistant to change may feel intimidated by these technologies.
- It’s been argued that technology can replace objectivity. Some clinical concepts do not translate in objective measurements. For example, a device may be able to count a patient's pulse but it’s not as easy to definitively measure levels of pain.
In spite of these drawbacks, digitalization in health care is a better option than the traditional way. After all, drawbacks can be overcome with effort and persistence.
Over the last few years there has been a push for greater transparency in healthcare. This push has come from insurance companies, governments, patient groups and health plans alike. The digitalization of medicine is one way to achieve this. Modern technology measures and collates information in a reliable way. This makes information available and accessible to both doctors and patients alike. Ultimately, this improves the quality of healthcare. The digitalization of medicine truly is the way of the future.