In recent years, we have begun to see a new healthcare trend emerge: the digitization of healthcare and the creation of telemedicine. As we have already seen on this blog, many patients are beginning to once again turn to receiving healthcare in their homes. This is especially due to the introduction of telemedicine, which allows patients to seek medical diagnoses and treatments without having to go to clinics.
So what exactly does the digitization of healthcare and telemedicine mean? MedicineNet defines telemedicine as:
The use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications for the health and education of the patient or healthcare provider and for the purpose of improving patient care. Telemedicine includes consultative, diagnostic, and treatment services.(MedicineNet, 2018).
What are the benefits associated of digitizing healthcare?
There are many benefits that the digitization of healthcare will allow.
- Decreased risks of hospital-acquired infections. One of the frequently covered topics on this blog are HAIs. If less people are visiting hospitals, and instead using telemedicine to get diagnosed and treated from home, there will be a reduction in the number of people getting HAIs.
- Improved patient experiences. With the use of telemedicine, patients won’t have to spend time making appointments, travelling to hospitals or waiting to be seen by doctors. They simply will need to go online to consult a doctor, and can receive treatments and prescriptions within minutes.
- Improved access to healthcare. As previously discussed on our post, Are Hospitals Disappearing?, many patients living in rural areas have to travel far to access healthcare. Telemedicine will allow people to be diagnosed and treated from almost anywhere in the world.
- Reduced costs for patients. Patients will pay much less to consult doctors online than at a clinic. The PBS News video on telemedicine (see below) tells us that a consultation online costs only $40, compared to $100-300 at an actual hospital (in the United States).
What are the risks?
It’s important to note that while there may be many benefits to digitizing healthcare, there are still some risks that need to be taken into consideration.
- One of the frequent concerns about telemedicine is that technology will replace doctors. While the digitization of healthcare will definitely have an impact on the way that doctors and patients interact with one another, doctors will always be necessary. First, they will still be needed to give the patient diagnosis and prescription, whether it be through video calls or in person. Second, doctors will also still be needed for more complex treatments and procedures.
- Another major concern is related to patient data security. We all know that there are already various privacy and security issues with posting your information online, so it understandable then that there would be concerns related to patient medical history being hacked or frauded.
- Finally, there is a concern of faulty diagnoses. Since doctors will not be able to physically examine patients and will be relying on webcams and phone cameras to see patients’ symptoms, many people have expressed concern that doctors may not be able to diagnose the problem properly.
The future of digitizing healthcare
We are living in a very interesting time for healthcare facilities. Many companies, such as Doctor on Demand, have already joined this healthcare “revolution.” Insurance companies have already begun partnering with telemedicine companies to cover internet consultations for their clients. There are many changes happening and many changes still needed to be made. It will be interesting to see what influences the digitization of healthcare will have on the future of the health industry.
For more information, see the video below: