Technology The Healthcare Wave:
After all, you can do everything through an app. Set up rides, pay bills, order food for delivery and make purchases for everything that can often be delivered overnight. Convenience has become the most important commodity. Furthermore, access to information has quickly become the norm. Newsfeeds and social media keep us updated on everything that is important and trivial, often not distinguishing between the two. Cellular technology means we literally hold the world in our hands.
This revolution in information and convenience has had a significant positive impact on society. We are able to ease the tensions of our day, from booking a flight to ordering dinner, which means that we save time and energy for other work and leisure activities. And we can get in touch with people from all over the world for business or friendship. Connections abound!
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Let’s start with access to care. We can allow assistance and access to specialists over long distances. Often people can be virtually seen by a provider – and get both the diagnosis and the prescribed treatment – without leaving home. One has to wonder how long before “streaming” all health interactions, except the most complex ones.
Furthermore Technology The Healthcare Wave:
There are many patient portals. These allow all kinds of interactions concerning our health needs without ever involving the team. Scheduling appointments, reloading prescriptions and even displaying lab results are readily achieved through technology. It gives people access to their records and meets their needs without leaving the couch.
In today’s world, those options may seem absolutely on the point. We would expect all the metrics we measure to improve: access, flow, and satisfaction. A new era of medical care could be on the horizon. But of course, as we are taught in the 6th-grade science class, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And what could be those that could be in a new era of technological health care must be explored.
First of all:
We should think about the whole health care experience on a continuum and not just in an acute episode. Take the usual interaction with a doctor. The visit begins with the office staff, who can be very thorough about how someone is going. Take, for example, the elderly patient who has difficulty remembering things. This can affect drug compliance and other aspects of general health hygiene. Or the young mother who may have difficulty with postpartum depression. Front lines at the door often note these subtle clues that something is happening. It is unlikely that a portal or a streaming service will have this insight.
The link between a patient and his supplier was sacrosanct for eons. The whole reason for designing the medical home is to have a story that can be used for the context of the medical journey. Sharing the intimate details of one’s life in any relationship requires trust, which takes time to build. This is certainly true in health care, where some of the best and worst moments in life involve your doctor. The human touch should not be underestimated and is unlikely to occur via a smartphone or a streaming box.
Finally Technology The Healthcare Wave:
Test results can be at best, difficult to interpret and, at worst, lead to devastating news. In the past, doctors would have examined these results and called and offered more than just a number or a formal reading. They interpreted the results as something meaningful and hopefully, the delivery was compassionate. When someone who does not have a medical degree opens a portal and sees a marked, abnormal result without interpretation, there is room for all kinds of stories to be formed in their minds – in addition to a great anxiety that may not even be necessary, as not all the reported result is clinically significant depending on the patient’s complaint. However, the workload of the doctor can often lead to delays in responding to the long-awaited results. Sometimes this means end-of-day phone calls, after office hours and when nobody has much energy to talk.
- How does medicine adapt to the new technological age?
- How can we find a space where patients can be satisfied with their access and the transparency of the system?
- How can we create a space where doctors can be useful with their time management but still maintain the therapeutic relationship and provide the much-needed context for their patients?
- How can we remain faithful to our mission as a health care system to guide patients on any journey they live if we rarely engage outside of a computer program?
The very talented companies are working on this dilemma. There are also sources of medical equipment that can be used by a patient at home to transmit telematic signs and heart sounds through telemedicine. Some doctors and other providers regularly offer telemedicine visits to maintain continuity with their patients. It seems likely that some artificial intelligence companies will find a way to give context to test results. Everything will be accurate and appropriate. It will also be episodic by definition.
But what it will not achieve is the warmth of human interaction and touch. Patients often need someone to listen and care about their travel history. The doctors need the validation that their reason for attending medical school, which was definitely their intention to help people, is still true. These attributes will never be achieved through sterile, human-less technology. It should be a tool, but using it as a total solution will surely have unintended consequences. We do not allow our humanity to be one of these, whether we give or receive.