For many decades, new drugs and tests have had a profound impact on health care. We are now witnessing the rise of entirely new technologies that will fundamentally change how health care is access and deliver.
In the past, patients and doctors would meet in person. To obtain information about the patient’s health-care preferences and needs, the clinician would use the traditional method of asking for a history, conducting a physical exam, and possibly organising tests.
The clinician would then compare this information with current knowledge about disease, prognosis, and therapies, hopefully including the patient. Together they would decide on a management plan.
The World Health Is Changing
All of this has been change by the internet. Whether we are health professionals or not, we all have similar access to vast quantities of information about diseases and how they are manage. This information is easily accessible so patients can be as informed as possible about their health and treatment options.
There are a growing number of apps that can help patients make informed decisions about their health options. Social media allows you to instantly connect with others who share your health concerns and experience.
Wearable biosensor technologies monitor physiological processes such as heart rate and activity. This allows for analysis and interpretation in real-time. Future wearables, as well as home-based sensors, will monitor a wider range of measurements, providing data that can be use to provide more sophisticated assessments of the wearer’s health and support in their care.
Pharmacies And Primary Health Care
Point-of-care testing is available at many pharmacies and primary health-care facilities. These tests currently only provide basic biological measures such as blood glucose and cholesterol. However, the number and range of tests available are increasing rapidly and prices are falling.
It will soon be possible to not only diagnose an infection but also to predict the most effective anti-infective for it. This can done in minutes and without the need to consult a doctor or nurse.
Human genomics is enabling us to reclassify and redefine diseases. These advances allow for more accurate predictions of risk, new opportunities to prevent disease; rapid confirmation of increasing numbers of diagnoses. This allows patients to informed about treatment options and clarify their likely prognosis.
This is the foundation of personalized medicine. It aims to tailor health-management advice to each individual, not just their disease. Parallel advances in genetic analysis of cancerous tumours and pathogens that can cause infection are improving the options for treating patients and their diseases.
Mental Health Is Also Important
Information and communication technologies are changing the way we provide psychological care. Video-consultations are more popular than ever because psychiatrists and psychologists seldom see patients in person.
Many websites offer online psychological assessments and advice. These can used to screen for common mental disorders or to assess cognitive and emotional functioning to predict the likelihood of a specific treatment.
Online access is easy to find psychological treatments such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioural interventions. Their effectiveness is support by strong evidence when used properly.
Communication technology can be used to monitor patients’ compliance with prescribed medication. This is a useful tool for the care of dementia patients, for instance. Smart dispensers can also help us all remember to take our medications.
These advances eliminate the need for patients to meet with their clinicians in person or to communicate synchronously if a physical interaction, such as surgery, is necessary. Both patients and clinicians have access to a wide range of information and electronic decision support tools that can be used to help them make informed decisions. This is changing the role of the clinician.
As experts in the use of resources, doctors will play an increasing role in facilitating decision-making and patients’ choices. Still, infrastructure will be required for medical intervention, emergency management and the care of the very sick. However, information technology’s ability of reducing time and space will change how health care is delivered in the community. This will allow for the best care at every patient’s fingertips, whenever they need it.
These implications are significant for policy and planning in the health sector, as well as for education and training of health professionals. The key considerations include making it possible for everyone to have equal access to information technology, and ensuring that the technology does not distract from the human connection that we need when we are feeling ill or anxious about our health.