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Digital Medicine In The Future

How is digital medicine making a difference?

7May

Digital technology has helped us with some of the most important aspects of our lives, from the way that children are taught through to how we order our food.

The ability to undertake tasks that would have normally required us to move to a specific building or area, instead being able to do them when and where we want, has been one of the biggest benefits of our increasingly digitized society.

However, medical care has not been at the forefront of this, with most medical records still being held in paper form, consultations being five minute meetings with a doctor in their surgery and bookings needing to be made through a receptionist at specific times of the day.

None of this is really fit for the expectations of the modern population, they simply create frustration at a time when simplicity and speed are most important for the patient.

This is changing though. Digital medicine is beginning to make a difference and in the next few years it may well become a key part of our daily lives.

Self Diagnosis

Want to know what a particular rash is? There is an app for that.

Want to know what your symptoms may be? There is an app for that too.

Smartphones and a connected society has meant that we can now track our health, be this through heart rate monitors, blood pressures or the amount of physical exercise we undertake. This information that used to appear as simple numbers on a screen can now be run through algorithms and health tests can be undertaken without a doctor being involved at all.

There have been reports of doctors receiving emails from their patients with information about a condition that they have self diagnosed, complete with the data accompanying and proving this. From a specific heartbeat irregularity to blood pressure changes, the ability to have this information being gathered and analyzed 24 hours per day gives a far more holistic view and considerably more data to make an accurate diagnosis.

If a doctor can look at the results of a test conducted over several weeks and already analyzed before they have even seen you, they have a far better chance of successfully treating it.

Virtual Consultation

I can talk face-to-face with my parents who live 5000 miles away. I can get complex analytical studies from China whilst comparing them with the results of a similar study in Canada, yet it has not been possible to talk to a doctor face-to-face who is within 10 miles of me unless I book an appointment well in advance.

However, this is changing with a significant number of services now becoming available to allow people to talk to a doctor online. It means that they can get impartial advice wherever they are and due to the non-intimate nature of the exchange, may be more open to accurately discussing their symptoms.

With the on-demand nature of video consultation it means that individuals can have access to a doctor at a time that suits them. At present most doctor’s surgeries do not cater particularly well for those who work regular hours. This makes every appointment before 9 or after 6 like gold dust and almost impossible to get.

Determined Costs

The cost of medical care is also something that people are worried about.

Many need to balance the health implications with their finances, something that many will be reticent to do. It means that if a procedure is considered, people need to know how much this is likely to cost. Until now there has not been a particularly accurate or easy way to calculate this, but with new apps and web based platforms, people can know the pricing of certain procedures and operations down to the last cent.

It will allow patients to have more freedom to choose whether or not the cost of a procedure is worth it in the long run and the implications that this could have to their health.

Cheaper Hospitals

The biggest change that digital health and the remote monitoring of patience is going to bring is the ability to make hospitals cheaper.

At the moment people people can pay around $4000 per night to stay in a hotel bed and have the same signs monitored that they could if they stayed for free in their own house with a smartphone. The reason for this high price in a hospital is simply that the cost of the equipment being used, the nurses and doctors treating and the corporate insurance involved in keeping somebody in that kind of environment, plus the necessity for the company to profit from a patients stay ramps up the price.

Through the elimination of these, the costs of hospitals reduces and the number of people who need to use them will be reduced, so services can be cut back in accordance to only have people on site who truly need to be there. This has a knock-on effect across the healthcare ecosystem as if there are less sick people confined together in one place, the chances of infections being passed on in this environment is significantly reduced.

It also means that the people who genuinely need to be in the hospital can have more specialized care and resources used on them, improving their chances of recovery. 

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