What is the Digitalization of Medicine? According to recent data, the US healthcare system will spend over $2.7 trillion on healthcare in the next 10 years. And this number is expected to grow at a pace of roughly $1 trillion every year.
We all love to talk about the digital transformation of healthcare but what do we mean by it? This question has been asked many times and I have seen many answers given. At first, I was confused why it was so difficult to define. Then I realized that it may be because we all have our own ways of looking at technology and medicine. And as such, we see technologies through our own eyes as opposed to other people who might look at them through different lenses.
If you want to look at medical devices differently than another person, you’d probably say they are a “smart bandage” or a “smart dressing” or a “smart glove” or something like that. If you want to look at digital health differently than another person, you might say they are a digital health solution (or maybe just a digital solution). If you want to look at digital transformation differently than another person, maybe you think it is about moving from paper-based records or electronic records into electronic-based records or electronic patient records…
And if some people would even call it “smart IT systems” instead of “digital IT systems”, which is clearly not my preferred way of thinking about computing!
This is probably good because it allows us all to speak from our own experience and perceptions of technology and medicine. But then again, it makes understanding other people’s points of view quite difficult, especially when they are not very clear in their own perspectives either!
For example: some people will argue that there are real benefits of the use of biometrics in physical fitness assessments because they can determine fitness level based on the unique attributes (e.g., hand size) of each individual person and thereby allowing us to differentiate between healthy individuals and those with potentially health problems (e.g., obesity). And some other people will argue that biometrics could be used to determine whether someone has been drinking alcohol and preventing them from driving etc…
Challenges of the Healthcare Industry
Healthcare industry is getting more and more decentralized. This makes it harder for the healthcare practitioners to get a clear understanding of their patients’ needs. The main problems in this space are:
- Lack of clarity about the patient’s needs
- Lack of a clear communication channel between practitioners and patients
- Lack of transparency on healthcare costs and charges
- Lack of transparency on insurance coverage
- No way to obtain a clear understanding of healthcare policy changes made by regulators
How to Deal with Technology in the Healthcare Industry
In the healthcare industry, technology is everywhere. The most common technology in the industry is a device, a physical piece of equipment that aids the health professional in some way. The devices are connected to the internet and are used by healthcare professionals in a number of different ways.
The devices range from tablets to automated nurses’ stations to electronic medical record systems (EMR). All of these devices share a common goal: letting patients interact with their doctors and get important information from them.
How to Make Doctors More Efficient?
The advent of digital medicine has changed the entire healthcare industry. Some doctors who used to go to hospital for X-rays and autopsies are now spending most of their time on their own patients or administering injections on the phone. The environment is changing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up with the technology. As a result, traditional doctors are becoming more efficient at working with patients and less patient-centric.
As a result, you might find yourself in a situation where your doctor is writing an email rather than calling you back.
What you need to do is change the way you communicate with your doctor. It doesn’t matter how well they are doing if they aren’t responding to your concerns. Take advantage of modern communication tools like Slack and move toward more person-to-person interactions. Play around with scripts, templates and other ways of making your doctor’s communication even more effective (you can even automate it if you have an automated platform). You can also ask your doctor for help: if they aren’t available, let them know by forwarding an email from you to them instead or by sending an SMS text message that includes your name, city, etc., along with a few questions related to the problem (such as “I need a quick answer about this X thing I’m dealing with… where can I find it?”).
If you are asking for help from multiple doctors in your area and as a result don’t get any replies, try asking another doctor in different cities or different departments within that department (e.g., one specialty within another), or just simply let them know that they aren’t answering all of your questions and may not be able to answer all of them (don’t be afraid to ask for help when something isn’t working).
The Digitalization of Medicine: Robot Doctors?
As the old saying goes, “the patient is always right.” So when you are a doctor or a nurse, if you have a doctorate in your field and you are also a nurse, it’s clear that you have some experience. In fact, most of us do and that enables us to give higher-level medical advice.
The problem with this, though, is that we often don’t know what’s best for the patient even before they arrive at our door. That gives us license to prescribe medication (or to not prescribe medication), depending on the situation. This is simply because we don’t fully understand the ins and outs of how medicine should be used in any particular condition. It’s like this: consider yourself an expert when it comes to your own life. But when it comes to your patients lives, you need to be an expert by default, or else nobody wants anything from you.
This problem could be solved by using robots instead of doctors or nurses; but as with everything else it depends on what kind of robot we would like to use and whether it should be used for hospital management or for patient care. And these questions get much deeper than their appearance suggests: there are three main issues that can influence whether or not a robot could actually help a patient:
- Does the robot increase confidence in doctors?
- Should patients see machine or human doctors?
- What kind of interaction do robots need with each other?
In most cases in healthcare this is not an issue because the technology (both software and hardware) is already there; but here too things get more complicated since the interactions between humans and robots need different forms of feedback (from their sensors). So how do we make sure both sides are happy? The first thing that needs to be done is setting up clear expectations for both sides so constant communication is possible without any manual intervention from either side. This kind of communication might require talking face-to-face, video chats or using robot assistants during appointments (like telemedicine). The latter requires additional services like nursing staff who can handle physical contact with patients at home but who are still part of the process; they will be able to share information with patients while they wait through appointments via video calls and send reminders via text messages while being able to provide reminders during visits via phone calls (and also during appointments).
The Digitalization of Medicine: Digital Health Coaching?
Digitalization is a global phenomenon. From the medical world to retail, from government to banks, from education to entertainment, from agriculture to energy, it affects almost every industry. With digitalization comes new opportunities and risks. While some digital transformations are positive, some are negative.
Digital transformation is a journey of discovery and discovery can be painful. In fact, the healthcare industry is not an exception. But just like any journey you should start by identifying what you want and designing an action plan based on your goals. The other side of digital transformation is related with the healthcare industry in a more specific way: Health Coaching
The difference between digital transformation and Health Coaching lies in their goals:
- Digital transformation: improving performance through better use of data
- Health coaching: improving health through real-time interaction
The product has neither goal; it’s only a tool to help you with your task (health). Digital transformation requires active participation from the user . In Health Coaching you are actively involved by taking part in the process itself: learning about your health condition, getting feedback from others who have already gone through this process or by reading or listening books about it. Digital transformation requires no active involvement . You can be passive if you want but that doesn’t make it easier . It’s still hard work for both sides so the outcome will be better for both of them.
We were inspired to write this article about Digitalization of Medicine after my conversation with Mike Ryan in my YouTube Channel. In that episode, I interviews¡ Mike Ryan, Chairman, Executive Impact Group & Chairman MGR Capital. In this episode, we talked about the Maldistribiution of Healthcare, how to leverage Digital Health globally and Decentralized Healthcare towards being Patient centered. Mike shared amazing insights on why Health Coaching is important to healthcare and digital health.We’ve also discussed how De-Institulionalised Medicine plays a crucial role in Diagnostics, On going treatments and Remote Patient Care.
Watch Episode #55 of Digital Health & Wearables Series
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