Digital health has a wide scope including many technologies you see or experience every day – a smartwatch or fitness tracker that tracks activity and burned calories, diet tracking apps, sleep monitoring devices, and heart rate monitoring apps. New devices and uses are emerging every day.
Digital health has experienced explosive growth, surpassing funding in other healthcare sectors including software, biotech, and medical devices. One of the reasons for its growth is that digital health empowers us to manage and improve our own health, which leads to better quality of life and fulfilling lives. For the healthcare system, it can reduce inefficiencies, increase quality, and make medicine more personalized and precise.
One element of digital health that is gaining momentum is telemedicine, or online doctor visits. By utilizing video conferencing technologies, healthcare professionals can improve efficiency by reducing time lost in traditional visits to an overbooked office and see more patients. They can also provide a higher quality of life to the elderly, the disabled, and patients in rural areas who may have trouble getting to a healthcare facility. Additionally, telemedicine visits save about half the typical cost to see a primary care doctor.
The potential impacts of digital health and telemedicine on our healthcare system and society are huge.
- 86% of US healthcare cost is related to chronic disease
- $30 billion a year is spent on hospital readmission
- A single insurer, Anthem, plans to make telemedicine services available to more than 40 million people by 2016
Utilizing digital health devices and telemedicine delivery can help patients become more engaged in their own care, identify patients' needs and tailor services to them, enable patients to get care in convenient and cost-effective ways, and improve decision-making by patients and providers.
Digital Health and Telemedicine Success Factors
- Patient Engagement
By informing and training patients on available remote monitoring devices, patients can self-monitor their condition. This reduces unnecessary doctor visits when a patient is unsure and reduces emergency room costs when a patient can prevent a problem themselves. Some devices can help prevent serious issues by triggering an alert to a nurse or caregiver based on a specific condition or safety risk.
- Patient Education
Educating patients on their condition and preventative actions is critical to decreasing healthcare costs, particularly with chronic diseases. Utilizing digital health technology, such as the smartphones and tablets already in patients’ hands, can educate patients quickly and conveniently. In a meta-study of 9,000 smokers, it was found that smokers who used text messaging interventions were 2x as likely to make it six months without smoking than those that didn’t.
- Telemedicine Training
Today’s accessibility of video technology makes real-time virtual visits more practical than ever before. By using a web-cam and personal computer, patients have access to their doctors in a stress-free and convenient environment. However, most healthcare professionals are not accustomed to using technology or interacting through video, which has contributed to the slow adoption.
To increase adoption, healthcare professionals must be trained. First, they must understand the value of virtual visits and benefits to them personally. Once they understand what’s in it for them, they may be more open to giving it a try. Second, the technology has to be easily understood and used. Training and simple procedures are key to making the healthcare professionals feel competent and efficient. Also, training patients on the remote visit process, and how to use the equipment can ensure that patients are ready, without technical issues, when the busy doctor has logged on to start the appointment.
For more tips on creating effective training...