Mobile and digital technology have changed the way individuals and groups communicate, retrieve information, and function on a day-to-day basis. This is as true in the healthcare industry as it is anywhere else. While the term “disruption,” which describes the effect these digital forces have on a given industry, can sound ominous, in truth, such innovations represent a major opportunity for improving patient care and streamlining processes.
As the world becomes increasingly digitalized, more and more patients are expecting their physicians to make use of such advances. Fortunately, those doctors who do so will quickly appreciate how digitization positively impacts all areas of their work.
It seems that a key trait of mobile technology is the speed at which it develops. While innovation is taking place in every field, innovations in this area seem to come much quicker than in other industries. As such, it is difficult to accurately list the ways in which digitization benefits patients and practitioners because the list of benefits is constantly changing.
That said, there are some key areas worth focusing on. No discussion of the role digital technology plays in the healthcare industry is complete without exploring how improved communication methods allow doctors to offer more vigilant treatment. Through the application of mobile solutions, patients can stay in contact with their physicians on a much more regular basis, updating them on their symptoms, reactions to medications, etc.
Similarly, many companies and developers are releasing medical apps for everyone from migraine sufferers to patients with hormonal disorders. Frequently, these apps allow people to track their symptoms and create detailed reports that they can share with a doctor via their phone or tablet. While physicians must guard against allowing convenience to take the place of quality care, if they treat these advances for what they are—new tools—they can use them to develop a much more informed and thorough understanding of a patient’s condition.
These benefits address the doctor-patient relationship. However, digital technology is also useful to those in the industry in more general ways. For example, it makes it easier to catalog and access data. When it comes to treating an individual patient, especially one battling a long-term illness, this simplifies the process of getting the “big picture” of the patient’s medical history.
Digitalization also has large-scale applications in the healthcare field. Researchers looking to develop new treatment methods for a condition can more effectively analyze enormous amounts of data, thus giving them the perspective they need to identify which treatments appear to be effective, which ones appear to be ineffective, and what additional factors people might have overlooked in past research. In addition, hospital administrators can employ digitization to more clearly identify where they need to build up departments, upgrade their facilities, or devote more general attention.
While digital innovations will never replace physicians, this technology gives doctors greater precision in diagnosing patients, performing surgery, and developing imagery. Therefore, implementing this technology is not only necessary, but worthwhile.
An Unavoidable Change
Most people are aware of the growing need for efficient healthcare, and this need will only become stronger in the future. A combination of low birth rates and increased life expectancy has resulted in an ageing population that will require significant medical care. Additionally, perhaps as the result of a sedentary lifestyle—potentially an unfortunate byproduct of the digital revolution—there appears to be a rise in chronic disease.
According to market research, experts tend to agree that those who have benefited from a mobile or digital experience in one area of their life will expect other areas to also go digital, and the current young generation, known as Millennials, has a degree of digital literacy that is unprecedented. Smartphones, for example, have already brought remarkable levels of convenience to Millennials’ lives, affecting everything from how they stay in touch with friends to how they order food or manage a bank account. It won’t be long before young people also expect their healthcare to follow suit.
Between the needs of older generations and the influence of the young, it’s clear that digital technology’s role in this industry will continue to grow, as it should. Members of the industry can stay ahead of the curve by investing in digital upgrades, focusing on how new innovations can improve the patient experience, and seeking out the necessary talent to implement these new solutions. Doing so will serve everyone in the long run.