The Blog: How Digitization is Impacting HealthCare

20 Nov, 2019

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Digitization Beyond The Tech Sector

The digital revolution touches on every aspect of our lives, healthcare included. Whether it's finding a recommendation for the best chiropractor, booking a parking spot before surgery, or even training doctors and educating patients. Look a little closer and you will find no clearer example of the internet changing peoples' lives.

When trying to find the right medical professional the internet has become the first place many of us go to. A recent study of 1,700 adults in the U.S. found that 80% of respondents in the last year, had used the internet to make a healthcare-related search. In many countries, The internet is also helping people to choose the right healthcare provider.  A Google study found that 94% of Australians looking for a healthcare provider used at least one of the following internet channels to help them decide:

73% Provider's website

56% Comparison site

48% Search engine

35% Category site

33% Forum, blog, etc 

Patients, Medical Professionals & Online Reviews

The internet has also given a new voice to patients. Review websites aren't just for finding somewhere to eat out. In fact, the review category health and medical providers now accounts for 6 percent of all reviews, making it the 6th largest category. Shopping (22%) and restaurants (18%) are the two largest review categories. 

Review websites are informing the healthcare decisions that many people make. 28% of patients surveyed agreed that reading positive reviews on an independent review website would be enough to make them choose a specific physician. Paying attention to patients' feedback helps to ensure that the best possible healthcare is provided. 

Many medical institutions are not free from worrying about the impact of the review on patient numbers. Considering this, it's hardly surprising that even the small medical practices are thinking about online profile management, 90% of medical professionals surveyed said that they were concerned about the risk of bad reviews. This worry is increasingly translating into action with 46% of respondents planning to commit resources to online reputation management in the next year.

The Changing Doctor-Patient Relationship 

In the pre-internet age, Dr's diagnosis was very rarely questioned. These days Drs are as likely to get a list of potential diagnoses from some patients as they are symptoms. In many cases, this can be helpful for treatment. This is because a better-informed patient is better equipped and motivated to follow treatment recommendations. 

On the other hand, some of today's patients have learned incorrect information from the internet. This can sometimes cause difficulties, such as more instances of disagreement and conflict between healthcare professionals and patients, and a greater pressure on medical professionals to prescribe medication when it is not required.

The reliability of healthcare advice on the internet is entirely dependent on the quality of sources. To combat the issues above, there is a call to better educate patients with critical skills that will help ensure that they can distinguish between reliable and unreliable healthcare information on the internet. 

Helping Patients To Stay Healthy

Medical professionals have identified the role of the internet and digital marketing as a vital tool for preventative care and patient education. 

Patients may know what they should do to stay healthy when talking to the Dr but day to day life gets on top of them. This is often why so many people forget or lose sight of the goals of their treatment. In America, nearly one-third of people have stopped taking prescription medication without informing their health care provider and 50% of medication for chronic diseases are not taken as prescribed. This clearly has negative health outcomes for patients, in fact, it is estimated to cause approximately 10 percent of hospitalizations per year. 

Healthcare Online Helps

Increasingly the internet is becoming the primary tool for helping patients to follow their treatments correctly. Unlike a medical practice, the internet is a constant part of patients' lives; it is always there to help answer their questions and keep them on track. 

As part of the fight for patient empowerment and against misinformation. Healthcare services from around the world are increasingly going online. England provides access for all citizens to NHS 111 online, where patients can read reliable medical advice and to make appointments with practitioners.  

Online services are shown to help people follow and find treatment. Even those we often see as less well acquainted with technology; A study of elderly people in the United States found a positive correlation between internet use and timely commital of preventive health behavior. Those who used the internet were more likely to seek out cancer screenings, flu shots and cholesterol tests for themselves. Elderly women who used the internet were also more likely to encourage their partners to seek out these treatments.

Smartphone apps are also helping patients to get and stick to treatments better. There is a whole host of medication reminder apps including Medisafe, Tabtime, Med Minder, Pillpack and E-Pill. There are also disease-specific Apps such as Glucose Buddy which enables diabetics sufferers to track their insulin and blood sugar levels through their phones.  

The internet can also help patients find answers to some of those more difficult or embarrassing questions. Clearly there is a demand for services in this area: Ro is a cloud pharmacy that specializes in the online diagnosis and delivery of treatments for erectile dysfunction. This year the company was valued at around $500 million 

Training Better Doctors & Nurses 

Virtualmedschool is an online platform that offers what the Dutch company call "A 'Flight simulator' for medical professionals". Online tutorials of complex medical procedures from the virtual perspective of a surgeon in the operating theatre. The tool is currently used by over 6000 doctors and nurses in many hospitals in the Netherlands and The United Kingdom.  

Medical Realties is another company that offers services in this area. Dr Shafi Ahmed is the CEO of the company. The Dr's vision is to create an online platform that uses augmented reality and affordable tech such as smartphones to teach medicine to people at different locations around the world. The aim is to make medical training more affordable and accessible. Check out a video interview here. This all just goes to show that digitization is not just helping with every stage of treatment it is also helping to train better Drs for the future. 

We hope you have enjoyed this story from the Blog by rankingCoach. 

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