For many, the thought of going to a doctor’s office is dreadful. Sitting in a cold and uncomfortable waiting room for a duration that surpasses the length of time originally anticipated, then finally hearing your name called and going into a sterile room to discuss important and stressful matters is enough to make many postpone the visits. The problem with this is that many situations call for immediate attention, and the longer it’s put off, the greater chance for complications there are.
But good news for all of you anxiety-ridden procrastinators – technology is changing the patient health care experience. While you can’t avoid going in for the more serious things (think surgeries and invasive procedures), there has been a shift in the way patients can now take control of their health in a more comfortable and convenient way. As a PR pro, it’s critical to stay on top of trends such as the introduction and widespread use of wearables, on-the-go medical devices that utilize cutting edge technology and constant connectivity healthcare world is changing.
Since the initial introduction of wearables, there has been a notable evolution in the types of products made available. From Apple Watches and Fitbits to Garmin fitness trackers and even smartphone apps, it seems like there is a new gadget hitting the market every other day. While many are made to be stylish and trendy, encouraging people to regularly wear them, they do a lot more then act as an extra accessory.
Wearables are allowing people to be more aware of their day-to-day health. Users now have the power to instantly access, track and monitor their overall health and fitness from weight loss or gain, sleep patterns and sugar levels, and the number of daily steps taken. The immediacy of information allows for a more proactive – as opposed to reactive – approach that people can take when assessing their health. Instead of waiting weeks for updates from tests, they can now asses the information and start making a change in lifestyle quicker.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not knocking wearables at all. But when taking a closer look at the types of on-the-go medical devices and technology that’s now available, or will be soon, wearables look like child’s play. Patches that instantly read a person’s heart rate, temperature and other vital signs, sensors that can easily detect stress levels and dietary intake and even chips that can confirm if a patient is taking their prescribed medication.
On a larger scale, it’s also worth a look into things like robotic surgeries, warm donor organ perfusion systems and smaller, more manageable devices like pacemakers. It’s amazing how far technology has come and how big a role it will continue to play in the health world. Utilizing devices and technology such as those mentioned above and many more is changing the traditional methods of practicing and receiving healthcare.
I’m not making any shocking statements when I say that a majority of the population is regularly on their smartphones – taking pictures, sending information that is received within moments and constantly searching the web for answers. This has already largely affected the medical world because individuals hit the web to search conditions and pre diagnosis themselves before they even step foot into a doctor’s office. There are ups and downs to this, however, because not all symptoms and conditions can be diagnosed simply from looking on WebMD: it does take a professional to make the right call on the issues at hand.
But with the easy-to-access information in mind, how can it best be capitalized on and used effectively? The Massachusetts General Hospital has implemented a process that allows physicians to send a photo of a patient to the dermatologist, and from there, a recommendation for a specialist can be made or a treatment option can be suggested. The beauty of something like this is the immediacy of it – patients don’t have to go from doctor to doctor or book appointments weeks out to get an answer they can now find in under 15 minutes.
Healthcare is very focused on empowering the patient and giving them the right tools to do so. The delivery methods are changing and the emphasis is being placed on a stronger patient-centered platform. As we look ahead to what’s to come in the evolution of healthcare, it’s safe to say that technology will be the driving force behind it.
The upcoming mHealth + Telehealth World 2016 in Boston is an event that fosters conversation around the cutting edge technology healthcare topics. With that in mind, as we see that shift in the future of healthcare, the topics mentioned above serve as an excellent resource for speaking points. Diving into these new trends and tools and offering the audience an insight to what the future of healthcare holds.