There’s no question about it: mobile technology has had a gigantic impact on healthcare. From wearable devices to telemedicine to mobile computer carts in hospitals, both doctors and patients are benefiting from mobile technology, but there are a few downsides as well. This article explores some of the areas that mobile technology is impacting healthcare.
More than ever before, there is a focus on holistic health and the “three pillars for building a patient-centric digital ecosystem.” These pillars include education, living a healthy lifestyle, and a commitment between the patient and the healthcare provider to look at the whole picture in a holistic way. How physical health, mental health, diet, exercise, and lifestyle all play a part in the health of an individual. With this in mind, many healthcare providers are now offering nutrition advice, dietary information, and even exercise and activity reminders, all over a patient’s mobile where it can be accessed at any time. In addition, physicians are making symptom checker tools available to their patients. These allow patients to be engaged in the healthcare process and examine their own symptoms without stepping foot into the doctor’s office.
When a patient does go to the doctor’s office, they will sometimes have to be admitted, or they may be diagnosed with an illness. Then, before current technology, when the patient was ready to head home, they would leave with an armful of papers and documents, most of which would be disregarded or tossed aside when arriving home. Now, however, hospital discharge and post-treatment instructions are being provided online. This can include a virtual checklist for the patient to go through to make certain he follows instructions as well as medication reminders. The patient can even be notified when his medication is running low so he can notify the pharmacy.
Although it was well on its way in 2018, telemedicine really took off during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and it is definitely here to stay. Patients can meet with their doctors from the comfort of home via teleconferencing. In addition to being more convenient, virtual visits are much less expensive than travelling to the doctor’s office, and it’s a time saver as well, for both the doctor and the patient. There is a downside to this mode of healthcare delivery, however. Some fear that this mode of delivery, due to the patient-doctor interaction being limited, could compromise the relationship between the two. There are also significant concerns regarding the “lack of control over the collection, use, and sharing of data” to safeguard the privacy of the patient.
Despite patient-physician rapport and privacy concerns, there are additional benefits. Another patient-centric benefit that mobile technology has provided is it has made patient records more accessible. No longer is the doctor the only one with the records. In some places, doctors have been mandated to not only give patients access to records but to make the records downloadable by the patient as well as placed in a format that would allow the patient to transmit them to other doctors. No longer would another doctor have to wait for records to come in; they would literally be at the patient’s fingertips.
In addition to records and telemedicine, there are also mobile technologies that allow patients to relieve their own pain without taking medicines loaded with side-effects and without the need to see a massage or physical therapist. They can do this using a new hand-held device called MiTouch. The device comes with several sticky pads that the user attaches to the area in question. The MiTouch then transmits bioelectrical pulses to the nerves in that area, providing instant relief.
With the use of wearable devices with remote monitoring capabilities, patients can be sent home from the hospital earlier while still being observed by their healthcare team. These devices can track a person’s heart rhythm, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and even temperature.
Many of these devices are geared to measure these indicators and alert the healthcare team if needed. Such devices have been proven to enhance patient outcomes once the patient is sent home as well as reduce the workload of hospital staff since the patient can be sent home earlier.
One of the biggest technological breakthroughs for patient care in the hospital has been mobile computer carts containing the patient’s electronic health records (EHR). No longer does hospital staff have to sift through tons of paper to find specific records, and every care provider who goes in the hospital room has instant access to the same accurate, up-to-date records. In addition, the EHR automatically updates during shift changes so medical staff always know who was on duty when. There is no more break down in communication during critical times.
One thing that is being added to EHRs and will soon become mainstream is blockchain technology. With blockchain technology in place, there will no longer be missing, inaccurate records nor will records be able to be added after the fact. This would significantly increase trust and confidence between the healthcare team and the patient. This type of blockchain would be a private blockchain that is run on hospital grounds with appropriate firewalls in place to prevent security breaches. Doctors and medical staff outside of the hospital would need permission to view the records.
Mobile technology has greatly altered the healthcare landscape for both patients and healthcare teams. No longer are patients in the dark about their own health care, and no longer are doctors nailed down to examining rooms and hospital beds. This is an exciting time for health care, with the best yet to come.