With the online format increasingly more prevalent in the modern world, this article will discuss the future of digital healthcare and how the way we access medicine is changing. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the switch of services to the internet, with the use of online doctors aiding both convenience and safety.
Virtual doctor consultations utilise video calling technology to connect online doctors and patients without them needing to be in the same place. An advantage to this system is that there will be no contact between patients in waiting areas, as well as decreased exposure to doctors. In times of increased infection, such as in a pandemic, this is a key tool to ensure patients can receive care and treatment, without increased risk. An additional benefit to virtual appointments is that patients can be attended to from wherever they choose, with an increasing option of many time slots, as a pool of doctors can be utilised.
Further to an online consultation, it is possible for a doctor to prescribe medication to a patient using an online platform. This system can also be used for patients that require repeat prescriptions and medication, where a physical checkup is not as necessary as a conversation. With the usage of online prescriptions, home delivery is a natural progression, as this would allow the patient’s pathway to be contained within the comfort of their home. Medicine being delivered will also reduce any potential contact between a patient and the public, where they may be particularly vulnerable.
Health Apps and Vital Signs Tracking
Mobile phones are now a crucial technology, often remaining with their owners at all times, with smartwatches also becoming increasingly popular gadgets to use. These devices are capable of assisting in healthcare. Features such as step tracking and sleep monitoring are well known and advertised within mobile devices, but, as technological advancements occur, the devices are able to perform much more useful functions. Heart rate tracking (ECG) is a common feature in many new smart devices, although error rates vary significantly between brands. Hydration levels and skin temperature are also measurable, with the possibility for these readings to be directly sent to a doctor for monitoring.
Advancements in machine learning and data processing mean that trends can be spotted and used to detect warning signs in advance to mitigate any possible issues. The general usage of health apps is useful as it can encourage positive changes and engage users in their health. Other apps that are used to maintain health can include diet tracking, which will allow for close calorie intake monitoring.
Disadvantages of Digital Healthcare
Potential downsides of digital healthcare mostly concern patients that have physical conditions that must be viewed in person, where a virtual appointment could lead to an ailment being misdiagnosed through the consultation. This scenario would likely only occur in a fully digitalised system, as currently it would still be possible for a patient to visit a doctor in person when required. A demographic that would be less likely to respond well to digital healthcare is the elderly, as these patients are the most likely to struggle with the technological transition. However, by increasing online healthcare for others, more physical time could be freed for this more vulnerable group.
To sum up, there are many benefits to using virtual healthcare methods, with there being an increased level of convenience for users, a larger amount of time and resources for doctors, and a higher level of health engagement through users of healthcare apps on mobile devices. While these positives are tied to the negative of some patients preferring to meet in person, with potential diagnoses being undetected, it is currently not the case that these patients would be unable to see a doc