What happens when you have a problem and don’t have access to any possible solution or even awareness of what’s going on? Perhaps, helplessness. What makes one feel empowered? The access and choice. Access to information and ownership of the situation makes one truly empowered. Citizens feel more empowered when they’re given the option to ‘choose’ their representative in a democracy, and similarly, when it comes to a patient’s care, they’d feel more empowered if they have proper access to information and an increased sense of ownership towards their condition and caregiving.
The healthcare industry is greatly built on trust and the impact of treatment by the healthcare provider. The onus of the effectiveness falls on the health care provider, while the patients remain clueless and helpless about the situation, without much that can be decided by them. On the other hand, the informal carer is completely dependent on the advice from the professionals and ends up feeling helpless for the condition of the patient.
Today, in the information age, when you receive information at the rate of a microsecond, most people go surf the internet to get information, including medical data. There is a risk here, as the information someone is referring to isn’t necessarily verified, but the impact that it leaves on the patient is an involvement in the healing process or a sense of ownership of their own bodies. The carer too is able to know what is going on and how they can help, this empowers people to have a role or a say in their treatment or their loved ones’ care.
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As the healthcare industry is growing by the day, there is nothing that can replace professional help, but there are ways to increase access to this ‘verified’ professional help, without burdening the health care providers or the patients, but by giving them the same power and responsibility over the treatment. The answer to increased access is the digitization of medical resources. There are different needs for different kinds of ailments, and inclusive yet compartmentalized treatment can be done in various ways using digital technology, from managing fitness, nutrition to diagnosis and remote consultation.
Reliable Information Banks for Patients and Carers
Educational technology development comes in various forms across different digital mediums, whether it is a portal for information which has texts, photographs, videos and a colloquial manner of explanation for the masses and also Open Online courses for the carers and Healthcare providers who are continuing education, they’ve really deepened the kind of access patients have on their own health issues and how they can start taking action at their level. For instance, the most basic app used by a majority of the audiences is fitness tracker app that keeps a count of the steps you’ve taken, your pulse rate, and so on, even this awareness gives an incentive for keeping healthy, developing habits and participating in your own health regime.
Remote monitoring helps patients keep a check on their statuses of health irrespective of the one’s location. The device allows the patient to perform a routine test and the data can be sent to the health care provider or the carer. The most profound development in this area is biosensing wearables.
For instance, the Khushi Baby app, a wearable health integration which has created a meaningful social impact. While community health workers would walk door-to-door as reminders of vaccination programs in rural North India, there was a dearth of awareness on the importance of these procedures among mothers. NGOs cannot identify what vaccine is missed by which child and the solution is the Khushi Baby App. A necklace is worn by the patients (Babies in this case) via near field communication. The NGOs can record the vaccinations the baby has had by scanning the necklace. The vaccination data is transferred to the necklace from the app in a matter of a click. During each vaccine injection, the data of other vaccines is accessible and mothers are intimidated about new vaccination programs through the phones.
Apart from this, there is technology that can also monitor physiological activity, brain activity, and advanced data which can ultimately help track the medical history of a patient. This data can be rendered extremely useful in emergency situations, where usually it is a bulk of paper files that show medical history, instead of a device that can just show a daily analysis and the most recent medical history for most apt treatment.
Adherence to Treatment and Medications
How often do patients actually take the medications as directed, most leave the medications midway as soon as the pain releases, but there are very few who complete the entire course. Then there are patients who might overdose themselves or skip certain timings when the medication has been prescribed to be consumed. This really impacts the treatment results and gives no validation to the pharmaceutical companies or the health care providers about the impact or effectiveness of healing. Such misleading can be misinterpreted in research for stronger medicines, instead, it is much more efficient if there are ways to remind the patient or the carer of the dosage, the consumption and measuring the efficiency, it is like a journal of treatment.
This can help the patient track their progress, whether it is a chronic disease or an acute one. Harrow CCG commissioned a digital health app to improve the care of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease patients. A service known as ‘Closercare’ was used which remotely monitored the patients linking them to nurses, and if there were any abnormal changes, it is indicated to the healthcare providers and this helped better adherence to the treatment. There was a 63% drop in hospital bed days and 50 % drop in admissions, leading to better management of the conditions by the patient as well.
The Anonymity Factor in Mental Health Situations
Mental health is still a taboo around us and people who suffer from certain conditions initially live in denial, but even after they’ve realized the need for treatment, they wouldn’t make the call, simply because there is an issue of security. Communication has improved since the age of technology, and communication is key to mental health situations. Finding someone to share the anxieties with is difficult, the conventional ways are not always ‘secure’, for those who are suffering.
The digital world brings the much-needed barrier of the absence of the same physical space and the ability to share and manage your thoughts in anonymity. Apart from that, there are several applications that help people to relax, meditate or find something that can help them relax. One such example is an app called Calm. It is an app that helps people manage their stress, and bring them closer to their mental health goals.
These applications can be good starters for patients who are trying to deal with certain situations and for mental health care providers as they provide for healthy coping mechanisms. Another such application is ‘Beating the Blues’ which has an inbuilt system of computerized cognitive behavioral therapy, and the satisfaction rate of patients was higher than those receiving usual care. Reduction in symptoms was recorded as well.
Developing Online Portals
Online portals help patients constantly manage their health system and see the improvement. It is like a digital journal of information that can be of great help to the patient, the carer and the health care provider, giving all three of these a control over the treatment and an awareness of what is going on. There are several portals including those developed by certain hospitals where patients can check their medical history, the vitals, blood test reports, other reports that they’ve taken over time.
This can be extremely helpful in cases of regulating treatments or disease management like Diabetes, the sugar levels can be checked over the years or months, and a diet can be planned. This can also help the carer to transfer information in their absence and easily accessible information for the patient to take part in their own treatments.
One good example of such a system is ‘Coordinate my care’ which helped patients with life-limiting diseases develop a personalized care plan by sharing all medical information electronically. This helped in a significant drop in hospital attendance and length of stay, also leading to monetary savings.
Managing health and body should be a priority for everyone and digital technology can bring in new routes of treatment and management of fitness, reducing the feeling of helplessness and at the same time aiding health care providers who would be associated with the patients in controlling care and adherence to the treatments.
Healthcare technology development needs an in-depth study of what are the pressing points for various patients and areas of health that need to be monitored. There needs to be a good analysis of which aspects of the ailments can be managed on digital technology and how does it aid ‘human’ care. There is a lot of responsibility in developing these kinds of applications as the dependency becomes higher and can cost someone a delayed healing. At the same time, when it is done well with experienced expertise, it can result is saving lives, time, and resources.
With more than 25 healthcare solutions, Mobisoft has been successful in developing digital health apps and aiding many patients, health care providers, and carers. It is an area that needs greater development and can substantially help mankind in living better lives, whether it is by managing physical fitness, mental fitness, or a life-limiting disease.