Co-authored with Dani Schrakamp
Digital Health Wave
Here we are, now in the digital age. Blah blah, you know that already. But while we all sit around with our smart phones, shopping, socializing, working, and living in the digital world; the reality is that we’ve really only started to scratch the surface. And even though technology has seemingly permeated everything in our lives, it is only beginning to touch how we manage health and wellness.
Yes, it’s fun and trendy to track your steps or your heart rate with wearables. But this is just a small glimpse into the possibilities of how we collect and share health data to improve patient care at greater speed and scale. Movements like the Internet of Everything have been kick-starting the advancement of digital health. However, there’s still disconnect between technology and the delivery of innovative healthcare. And the reality is, the majority of those in the health industry haven’t quite caught up. So the question remains, how do health and wellness dive in to the deep end of the digital movement?
Health, Wellness, and Rock & Roll
In today’s post, our digital citizen is also a rock star and heart patient.
The alarm sounds at 8 am and it’s time to wake up. But it’s not the alarm clock that’s going off; it’s the notification of an issue in our citizen’s implantable cardioverter-defribillator (ICD). A device implantable inside the body capable of correcting most life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. Without fully understanding whether to panic or accept it as a normal part of life with this new accessory, the answers were working themselves out behind the scenes, streaming real-time information on the patient’s well being. First, a notice was sent to the device manufacturer. This then triggered an alert to the health provider and prompted a call to the patient. Within an hour of being awakened by the unnerving sound coming from our citizen’s own chest, the cause had been identified, shared with the care provider, and a next-day appointment had been scheduled for follow up.
Healthcare professionals normally rely on patients to confess how they’re feeling. However, with the possibilities enabled by crossing into the digital health realm, doctors will soon know how their patients are feeling, and possibly even why, before patients can walk into the exam room. In this case, proactively monitoring and solving for problems has allowed our citizen to return to normal life. Our citizen is as active as ever and still rocking on strong.
What if a specialist is needed, what then? More often than not, vast distances separate physicians, specialists, and patients in all corners of the globe. If our citizen had lived in Ontario, Canada, where telemedicine initiatives have helped patients save almost 200 million miles of travel per year, access to a specialist would have been a few keystrokes away. By providing tools that allow healthcare providers to easily communicate with one another and with their patients, caregivers can use the network to deliver wellness through video conferencing with patients, share data amongst one another, and support educational events or meetings over a distance.
And what about access to the remote areas of the world? There are renowned programs like the UVA Center for Telehealth. As well as serving patients throughout Virginia, it has expanded its programs to the medically underserved in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and other international destinations providing basic medical care and specialty services from psychiatry, to pediatric neurology, and genetics.
But why stop there? Technology is becoming more and more accessible. We should be planning for the day when all patients receive and all professionals provide the right care, at the right time, in whatever location is most convenient; the move to truly patient-centric care.
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