Picture it, stepping back in time a few years, the world is not on the brink of the pandemic that we are facing now.
Life goes on as usual, and you, an aging patient who has been experiencing regular care, present yourself at your GP’s surgery for an annual checkup. As you step inside the consultation room, the receptionist greets you and invites you to wait while she summons the doctor.
After a few minutes, the doctor enters the room looking fit and spry, if a little rushed as he is late for another appointment. As the two of you make small talk, the doctor checks your blood pressure and examines your eyesight, taking his time with the task.
Once he is happy with your vitals, he motions to the seat and offers you a cup of tea or coffee. You decline, and he nods in understanding before excusing himself and rushing off to the next patient.
You finish your checkup, and the doctor has a patient waiting outside, so you, a fully satisfied customer, leave the building feeling pleased and grateful that you made the right decision for your health.
That is how a traditional general practice on the cusp of the last century looked and operated. The digital revolution has not only changed the way we communicate and interact with each other, but it has impacted the way we provide healthcare as well.
Today, as medical practices and systems adapt to the new reality, long untouched by changes in technology, we are left wondering if the fundamentals of good healthcare still hold. Are we seeing the benefits of increased efficiency and decreased human errors that come with technology?
Do patients still feel comfortable giving honest opinions and feedback on how they experience care? Does the doctor-patient relationship seem to be moving in the right direction?
The short answer to all of these questions is yes, but it requires a healthy dose of skepticism.
While the benefits of smart technology in healthcare are innumerable, the danger of digital distraction is equally present. We must ensure that our loved ones are still our top priority and that we are mindful of the trade-offs that come with new technology.
To answer these important questions and to find the best way forward, we must look to the future, not the past. This is why it is important to look to the data and how it can guide our decisions. It is also why, as healthcare practitioners, we will be looking at how to use smart technology to improve the lives of patients in their aging years.
The Growing Appeal of Smart Technology In Healthcare
The appeal of smart technology in healthcare is readily apparent. The industry is set to hit the $16.7 billion mark by next year, and many industries, ranging from retail to finance, are seeing the benefits of leveraging digital platforms for efficiency gains and improved customer experiences.
Healthcare, and particularly the practice of general medicine, stands to gain the most from smart technology. The ability to give accurate, real-time, and accessible information to patients and their caregivers reduces the possibility of medical errors.
Additionally, healthcare workers can use smart technology to their advantage; checking on patients’ vitals, giving advice or prescriptions via email, and allowing for more convenient follow-ups reduce mistakes and inefficiencies that used to plague the industry.
As healthcare shifts further to the digital sphere, we can expect to see more benefits from smart technology in all areas of medical practice. From reducing medical errors to increasing patient loyalty and reducing administrative tasks, we can see why so many are interested in getting involved.
Real-Time Data Improves Patient Experience
One of the areas where healthcare stands to gain the most from smart technology is in the area of real-time data.
Thanks to modern technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, we can now collect and analyze massive amounts of data in real-time.
We can use this data to drive decision-making, improve efficiency, and enhance the patient experience. For instance, if we track blood pressure and heart rate across a number of patients, we can clearly see which medications are working best for each patient.
We also know which medications are causing potentially dangerous side effects. This feedback can then be used to make adjustments to the drug regimen or to change the medication altogether.
This type of data collection and analysis, however, comes with its own set of challenges.
The security and privacy of patient data is extremely important, especially as healthcare shifts towards more digital platforms.
Although the practice of general medicine is seeing the most obvious benefits from smart technology, other areas of healthcare, like mental health, may not feel as comfortable sharing as much personal data as they would for a surgical procedure.
For these reasons, it is important that healthcare providers are extremely mindful of the data they collect and the platforms they use, as they may not be as secure as they should be.
The Importance Of Human Touch
While we are seeing significant improvements in the way medicine is practiced thanks to smart technology, it would be a mistake to think that all of these benefits come without some drawbacks.
One of the areas that healthcare professionals should particularly be mindful of is the human-to-human contact that comes with efficient and streamlined communication.
Without the occasional face-to-face interaction, patients and their caregivers may feel alienated from the healthcare team – especially if they are not used to working remotely.
The benefits of human contact in healthcare cannot be overstated. Studies have shown that simply putting a human face on healthcare, no matter how briefly, increases patient trust, satisfaction, and compliance.
Healthcare professionals can use video conferencing tools to hold conversations with patients and their families, but nothing beats a good ol’ fashioned face-to-face chat. Healthcare workers must ensure that they make enough human connections to maintain the health of the patients while also utilizing smart technology to its fullest.
What About the Elderly?
A related area of concern that healthcare professionals must tackle is the growing interest in elder abuse. As people age and grow more dependent on technology, they need more support in terms of safety and care.
Thanks to technologies like video calling and voice-activated assistants, healthcare workers can check in on patients more frequently and ensure that they are comfortable and are not falling victim to any type of abuse.
If elder abuse is suspected, it is essential that professionals raise the alarm and seek the help of elder-care specialists, as early detection is the key to preventing further harm to the patient.
Aside from improving the patient experience and ensuring safety, healthcare professionals can also use smart technology to increase efficiency.
For instance, if a healthcare professional suspects that a patient is experiencing abuse, they can alert the appropriate authorities and close down that patient’s access to the system.
Thanks to such technologies as electronic medical records, healthcare workers can keep track of what is going on across a number of patients and be sure that no patient is being neglected or mistreated.
While these are all significant improvements that come with smart technology in healthcare, it would be a mistake to think that everything is sunshine and rainbows.
As with any new set of technologies, there are bound to be some growing pains as we figure out the kinks in the system.
We must be mindful of the fact that even the most advanced technology is not perfect and that there will always be a need for medical professionals to visit patients in person.
In the end, it comes down to this. Do we really want perfect service or do we want someone who looks after us like we look after ourselves?
While we are undeniably seeing the benefits of smart technology in healthcare, we must be mindful of the trade-offs that come with these new innovations.
As medical practitioners and researchers, we must use data and evidence to find the best solutions for our patients’ needs.
If you are interested in exploring the ways that smart technology can improve the practice of general medicine, you can start by looking into the best video conferencing tools for your needs.