Digital Media is radically altering the way health is managed and I believe this is for the better. Digital Media gives people the opportunity to take responsibility for their health. It has particularly important ramifications for preventative medicine. For instance FoodBlogger can be used to track eating habits. This allows the user to get an informed look what they eat so that they can make important amendments. Ordinarily, a dietitian would have to create this for a patient.
However, there more pernicious elements to this new empowerment. Misinformation can spread like wildfire. We have seen this recently with vaccination. In Australia the rate of vaccination has decreased to 80% of the population. A great deal of parents have read erroneous facts about vaccination over the internet. This has seen a spike in preventable and potentially fatal illnesses, like measles spreading. To tackle this problem the Australian government has had to produce a series of public health messages that encourage the vaccination of children to fend of the misinformation spread over the internet.
Another issue that I have raised a number of times in different posts concerns privacy. Many people are unaware that each time they use locative media (and this includes health apps) they give away personal information regarding there location. Although most of this information is mundane under usual circumstances, for instance, using google maps to find a street, sensitive information such as health is easily given away. The new smart watches monitor your heart rate and temperature. This type of information is usually held by medical professionals and is protected by various laws. Laws which are completely circumvented when a person uses such devices or apps. The law as it stands does not cover new technologies. Policy needs to brought up to cover Digital Media.
Health and Digital media is at a crossroads. New developments such as a health blogs and devices like fit bits challenge the medical establishment in a positive way by encouraging the user to take their health in their own hands. This means that professionals are made more accountable in preventative medicine. Unfortunately this freedom has brought with it consequences that make the administration of medicine even more difficult. Misinformation spread by people, who are themselves misinformed, has meant that vaccination has gone down. Further, the use of digital media has thrust sensitive health information in a position that is vulnerable to commercial exploitation. In order to maximise the health benefits the Health establishment needs to think clearly about how Digital Media fits into policy and procedure.