Before patients were forming opinions about the transition from the use of charts to EHR’S and Doctors use of technology versus metal tools, Digital Health was already changing our health through simple media use.
Straight out of the gate people were concerned with the digital transition the health industry was making, however most did not recognize that technology had already been implementing their health through their own usage. Take the Nike FuelBand for example; this tech savvy accessory tracks your everyday activity through an accelerometer to track your steps, calories burned, distance and activity time. The FuelBand App helps users achieve their health goals. By creating a wearable device that implements activity as ‘fun’ versus ‘work’ into daily life, individuals are improving their health. There are several other bracelets just like this including Fit Bit and Vivosmart by Garmin, not to mention the wide selection of watches that now include a calorie counting and/or heart monitor feature. The primary mistake that individuals make is defining Health by Weight Loss.
The sole purpose of Digital Health is to improve patient care and health. Just like the convenience of that small accessory on your wrist, EHR (Electronic Health Record) serves that same convenience of having your health records accessible. The health of the human body is like a black hole of research, endless. That being said this industry will continue to advance with new innovations. Due to the miraculous advances technology has made for other areas of society, healthcare is now gravitating towards digital health and technology.
Trying to understand the healthcare industry is like trying to find your house from a plane at 20,000 feet; merely impossible. You have to look at what technology has done for various patients across the world, instead of evaluating the changes your local practice is making. In addition, you have to recognize the innovative minds behind the research, discovery and creation of these technologies. An incredible example of this is an exciting progression within technology, introducing the very first tablet for the blind. Blitab a Vienna-based startup founded by three Bulgarians, is now bringing the tablet experience to blind and visually impaired people. The device is similar to an e-book, but uses liquid-based technology to create small, physical bubbles that rise and fall on the surface on demand to display the necessary text or graphics. The best part is that the user can insert a USB stick or a memory card with various types of text documents, such as a Word .doc or PDF and Blitlab will convert and display them in Braille. It can do the same with web pages and digital maps. In addition, the user can write and edit pages via Braille Perkins keyboard.[i] As an average patient who goes in for an occasional check-up, it was hard see digital health as more than just another money maker. However, my health has always been my number one priority and it pains me to see those who don’t receive proper care or who don’t even have access to the services that the average patient needs. I’m talking about the lack of any health service in underdeveloped countries.
Let us look at underdeveloped countries such as Africa where the population suffers heavily from good health. While this overall fast growing population is gaining more access to technology, extreme urban areas like Nairobi lack any sort of access to general healthcare. That being said, patients are waiting until severe symptoms before seeing a doctor and in this case it is often too late for treatment. Digital Health can reach milestones for this group of people who lack the cost and travel time to make it to a physician when needed. However, there is the possibility of tele-consultations which can be done from central points in the slums which are equipped with computers and webcams, and are connected with various doctors in the city.[ii] This is simply one way that Digital Health can drastically change the lives and the future of the African Population.
Digital Health regardless of where you are in the world requires a secured financial investment, knowledgeable and skilled staff, human resources and a devoted mindset. In a country where cellphones are just now becoming a norm, implementing Digital Health will require proper infrastructure, stronger power supply and internet connection, and general technology will be the hardest task. Investments will also need to be made for a safe and secure system to store patient information. All of this requires funding and unfortunately has to be implemented at the same time, making the process that much harder.
We must not forget the priority of health as it is the primary factor that affects employment, income, and family life. Chau and Hu discuss the preliminaries of technology acceptance. The ease of use of the technology itself is not the most important factor (Chau & Hu, 2002). This means that the practitioners have to be fully involved in the development of Digital Health programmes to ensure it will be developed in a manner which will be accepted by most, if not all, practitioners.[iii] Patients everywhere put trust in the hands of the doctors and nurses who work on them. Especially in a place where time with a doctor, physician or nurse is sacred, patients will need to adapt to the technological transition. The patients must also accept the new relationship dynamics between them and the healthcare practitioner which is established as technology is used for communication and consultation. They must also feel that the technology which they must deal with is easy to use and can be easily integrated into their everyday life (Ballegaard et. al., 2008).[iv] The U.S. has already invested in Digital Health, although the success will come from the patients and providers as they begin to integrate it into this sector of their health.
At the beginning of this article I said Healthcare cannot be evaluated through a looking glass. We must step back and look at the bigger picture of how Digital Health will advance as a worldwide movement. So when you think about how you may not need Digital Health, think about how others may depend on it.
[i] Zareva, Teodora. “The World’s First Tablet for Blind People.” Big Think. Big Think, 14 July 2015. Web. 28 July 2015.
[ii] Monthe, Patricia. “Should Kenya Invest in Digital Health? | AHIT News.” <i>AHIT News RSS</i>. Africa Healthcare Media, 09 July 2015. Web. 30 July 2015.
[iii] Monthe, Patricia. “Should Kenya Invest in Digital Health? | AHIT News.” <i>AHIT News RSS</i>. Africa Healthcare Media, 09 July 2015. Web. 30 July 2015.
[iv] Monthe, Patricia. “Should Kenya Invest in Digital Health? | AHIT News.” <i>AHIT News RSS</i>. Africa Healthcare Media, 09 July 2015. Web. 30 July 2015.