The typical behavior that people exhibit when they get ill has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Millennials and Gen Z patients are more likely to live in a point and click world. Therefore, their first course of action will not be to book an appointment with their family doctor. Indeed, as more and more individuals are struggling to make time for their health – with the typical workday lasting on average 10 to 12 hours for office workers –. Many can’t afford to miss a day. After all, paid sick leave isn’t always generous in the US, and there are still too many employers who fail to offer some form of paid sick days to their workers. As such, being sick is not an option for the young generation who has yet to establish financial health before the physical one.
Needless to them, it’s not uncommon for employees to turn up to the workplace with a fever, a runny nose, or a cough because they have no other options than to work through their sickness. However, it doesn’t mean they ignore their symptoms. On the contrary, many sick people turn to the Internet for guidance on how to manage their common cold or fix their sore throat. Digital health needs to lead the way of our American healthcare renewal. For patients, it’s a significant gain of time. When they don’t have the opportunity to book an appointment, they still need to find an answer to their query; aka how do they get better? However, while patients are ready to replace their physician with a digital application or a website – and many have already made the move toward online consultations – we can’t be sure that the healthcare system is at a stage where we can offer the best and safest digital care. Indeed, digital health doesn’t only bring valuable advantages; it could also be a source of risks for patients
Not all doctors have access to your data
The next generation of healthcare delivery model, value-based care is designed to provide better outcomes to patients at a lower cost. However, while in theory, the model has gained the support of executives, leaders, regulators, and researchers, physicians have failed to implement it in their practices and at the patients’ bedside. Indeed, value-based healthcare implies that to provide the best possible service, physicians have direct access to all relevant healthcare data. Giving access to appropriate and timely data is more effective than receiving multiple healthcare records about every single patient. However, not all organizations have yet managed to ensure their doctors have the best data at hand. Ideally, the value-based model should be implemented alongside a secure data network that allows a physician to log in and checks the screenings and other sample tests for a patient, regardless of when and where those medical tests have been performed. And while many providers are working toward an integrated healthcare system, the medical body has still a long way to go before offering full transparency of data and information.
Can you be sure your data are safe?
Accessing all data at the simple touch of a button requires top-notch healthcare IT services. Ultimately, the issue can’t be solved through an expansion of existing care network. Every patient’s file needs to be protected as it is stored in the network database. Ensuring the confidentiality and security of patients’ data is primordial to the success of a digital health model. As such, healthcare organizations have to work closely with specialist experts who understand the requirements and risks of the medical field.
Indeed, making records available online comes at a cost; namely, the health center could become more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. It is the role of an IT contractor to provide the security physicians need without reducing their access to medical information. Cyber attacks, however, leave one crucial question unanswered. Why would a hacker need to steal medical data? What would be the gain of knowing the results of Mr. Smith’s blood test?
Becoming the voice of healthcare can encourage people to get checked
While the online world can be a source of risks, more and more physicians have considered establishing an online presence to reach out to their patients. Giving healthcare a voice can not only help patients to demystify some of their health worries, but it also promotes regular health checks. Doctor Mike, a family doctor from New Jersey, has started a Youtube channel in which he answers health queries, helps viewers to make peace with their bodies and shares his medical views on current trends. Similarly, if you’re not keen on vlogging, keeping a medical blog for your practice can be a helpful addition to educate patients. However, discussing medical issues online needs to remain HIPAA-compliant. In other words, no doctor has the right to expose a patient’s confidential file.
Unfortunately, you’re not the only blogger out there
Many doctors don’t always take the time to create an online profile for one excellent reason: They don’t have time. But patients can still come across countless of health blogs and content online. However, not all online content has been produced by experienced experts. In fact, social media influencers only are guilty of sharing unhealthy nutrition and healthy weight loss 9 times out of 10. Influencers are more likely to dedicate time and effort to their digital presence, which can not only drive more traffic to their site but also ensure that their unhealthy tips reached out to a broad audience. For doctors, the online challenge is not just about building a blog, but also about shutting down harmful influencers.
Everybody googles everything
Thanks to the Internet, a simple sore throat can turn into rare and deadly throat cancer. Indeed, patients can have access to a variety of health-related information, which in turn increases the risk of hypochondria. A harmless disease can transform in a matter of a few clicks into a health crisis that leaves the sufferer stuck into a devastating obsession.
There’s no denying that digital health could finally be the bridge that reconciles busy patients and their physicians. From quick medical treatments to helpful tips online, there’s a lot that can be said for opening up health data to the online world. However, even in a situation where networks and doctors combine efforts to create informative and productive platforms, the risk of misinformation and cyberattacks asks one crucial question: Are human beings doomed to destroy the efforts towards a greater good?