By Staff Writer
As technology develops, we can expect that drastic healthcare reforms are coming our way. Due to recent events and the unexpected technological advancements, many experts believe that healthcare will see an even more significant shift into the digital age.
Technology isn’t necessarily new in most forms, as many industries transitioned to an electronic system. These digital upgrades have the potential to revamp and optimize the medical industry as a whole. While many look at technology as a saving grace, many transitions are met with opposition.
Why are so many people against digital health?
It’s not that people don’t like things to be faster and more convenient. The problem is technology is still somewhat novel. Whenever something is unknown, it tends to garner feelings of suspicion and distrust.
There are always those extremists that take everything more seriously than they need to. Unfortunately, those on the opposing end are often not radical individuals worrying about nothing.
There are actually some pretty sound arguments against switching digital. Most of them have to do with potential privacy issues and data exploitation. The sensitive personal information encoding in medical documents is not something you want to get out.
Beyond the invasion of privacy those risk on the individual level, there are legal complications of a data breach that you do not want to deal with in the future. In this day in age, keeping information safe is a lot more complicated than locking up a notebook in a filing cabinet.
Instead, most information floats around in online databases. Unlike those handwritten files that are only assessable through a physical key, databases aren’t exactly tangible. Massive data breaches have happened, further contributing to the fear people have.
Do we really need to go electronic?
When you see all the hassles of switching, you may ask yourself – why bother? If it is going to cause so many problems, is it even worth changing something that has been working for so long? You know how the saying goes— “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The thing is, the old ways weren’t perfect. Having all information housed within a single building may seem secure, but imagine if there is a fire or flood? In a single event, you could lose everything. Having physical backups just isn’t foolproof.
In this day in age, it can be scary to hear about how “once something is on the Internet, it is there forever.” While this is worrisome when you refer to unflattering photos or embarrassing videos, there is something comforting about knowing that you can’t easily lose vital information.
There are also many innovations going digital can offer aside from functioning as an optimized storage system. It allows files to be more legible and creates a much more organized system that both patients and clinicians can benefit from.
As more and more medical institutions are going digital, the demand for further innovation created a whole new market dedicated to the combination of healthcare and technology.
There is a whole rainbow of startups in the works, all trying to deliver different things.
Some more notable projects include Hume, a company behind integrating wearable tech and medical records, and AIME, an analytics platform that predicts the course of disease outbreaks.
While these are highly specified and novel inventions, there are some effective upgrades that many are expecting to see normalized in the coming years.
What are some trends we can expect?
COVID-19 certainly caused a stir among healthcare institutions. If nothing else, it forced the industry to take advantage of already–available resources to make things work out. Among other things, the world saw a sharp increase in telemedicine.
Put simply, telemedicine is when professionals using phone technologies provide remote medical consultations (Perednia & Allen, 1995). While the pandemic’s social distancing measures didn’t invent telemedicine, it did help popularize it a bit as some experts thought it offered a practical solution (Kadir, 2020).
It offers the perfect platform to allow patients to seek medical advice while limiting viral spread. Safety aside, it is very convenient! In a world where most people have a smartphone, it makes sense that we start to make the most out of it.
How can you get people to get on board with digital systems?
In order for people to make the most out of it, they need to actually use these digital systems and be comfortable with their health care providers using it.
The first issue to address is usability. If an individual has problems finding or using your tools, the tools are virtually useless. You must know how to interact with your target audience. If your target audience isn’t necessarily tech-savvy, you may want to consider investing a lot of time into your user interface.
Instead, make it as easy to follow as possible. Better yet, make an instructional video to guide users through the experience. Once you know that they are able to use it, you can address the more complicated problem.
How do you get individuals to support such platforms?
The answer itself is a little apparent— trust (Adjekum, Blasimme, & Vayena, 2018). Earning trust is much easier said than done, but there are some measures you can try to take.
One of the most significant steps is to ensure that you keep your human-centric image. Even if processes are done over the phone, retaining a sense of dignity and friendliness while conducting sessions can help patients feel like they aren’t at the mercy of robots.
These social agents should preserve, even in the absence of an actual person (Marinaccio, et al., 2015). Potential solutions could be to have a friendly copywriter or also implement a virtual assistant that has a personal touch.
Make sure to always develop your technologies by following proper guidelines and keeping your platform secure. You don’t want to lose trust once you get it!
Technology isn’t going anywhere, and we should expect change. Rather than joining the opposition, taking a few small steps can get you started in your journey to the future.
Adjekum, A., Blasimme, A., & Vayena, E. (2018). Elements of trust in digital health systems: scoping review. Journal of medical Internet research, 20(12)
Kadir, M. A. (2020). Role of telemedicine in healthcare during COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries. Telehealth and Medicine Today.
Marinaccio, K., Kohn, S., Parasuraman, R., & De Visser, E. J. (2015, June). A framework for rebuilding trust in social automation across healthcare domains. In Proceedings of the international symposium on human factors and ergonomics in health care (Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 201-205).
Perednia, D. A., & Allen, A. (1995). Telemedicine technology and clinical applications. Jama, 273(6), 483-488.