DIGITAL HEALTH: EXPERIENCES, TECHNOLOGIES AND NETWORKS.
One of the vital changes brought to us by ICT services in recent years is convergence of digital and health. It is also known as the Digital Health. The digital health is revolutionizing the health system and is benefitting both patient and health professionals. Digital health refers to the convergence of the digital and genomic revolutions with health, healthcare, living, and society. Digital health is empowering people to better track, manage, and improve their own and their family’s health, live better, more productive lives, and improve society. It’s also helping to reduce inefficiencies in healthcare delivery, improve access, reduce costs, increase quality, and make medicine more personalized and precise (Wikipedia).
The convergence of digital and health have led the communications industries in developing devices and apps such as Self-trackers to help users keep track of their health and fitness. These devices and apps empower people to take proactive approach to manage and understand their health and wellbeing. The ironic with such devices and apps is that it can be applied only to developed nations, rich and literate people. Such devices and apps cannot be applied to developing nations, rural, poor and illiterate people. The priority for such nations and people is to have the basic needs in their lives such as house, clean drinking water, access to motor road and food. The differences in priority might further widen the gap of digital divide. The other drawback for such devices and apps are that the texts are mostly in English. This limits in accessing and expressing the need of people from diverse linguist, oral society and the uneducated (Borlandand Mphande 2006). Digital health should focus on creating apps like Hesperian where diverse language need is addressed.
One of the achievements in the Digital Health is in terms of delivering health services to those patients who need a regular close monitoring by the doctors. Examples are Telehealth and inScale, where they use telecommunication techniques like video conferencing and mobile phones to provide health services and advice over a distance. I think such Digital Health services will contribute in developing countries to take healthcare services to the remote parts of their country and also where there is a shortage of healthcare professionals. Again the question is how much of the country is connected and how to address the difficulties in providing the services in poorly connected areas. If digital health services are driven by profit again it will be difficult for developing nations and poor people to avail such services.
Social media and blogs are one of the platforms where healthcare professionals and patients can share their experiences and knowledge on health issues. I think sharing information and seeking advice online has helped healthcare professionals like Dr. Camilo to treat patients, which will not be possible during the pre-Internet period. Illness blogs helps patients to share information and experiences about a particular disease. It helps the patient with similar conditions to understand about the disease. It will also contribute to make people understand about the disease which in a normal case are poorly understood.
To me digital health and high speed broadband network provides opportunity to take quality healthcare services to remote part of the globe. Again the digital health should not limit to what the apps or the devices can provide. For digital health to be successful the customers or patients should have the choice and freedom. The whole development of future digital health should be based on the demand and general wellbeing of users. Information such as the patient history should be protected at all times unless it will make the lives of the patient better.