Disruptive innovations and advanced medical technologies, along with plans for digital transformation, are bringing in the 21st-century digital health.
Digital health symbolizes the qualitative change on the horizon of healthcare transformation brought in by countless disruptive technological innovations flooding the healthcare field. This paradigm shift indicates that this is not just a technical change, but also a cultural change.
The rise of social media networks gave a further boost to the change, while the penetration of smartphones summoned mobile health. Since 2010, the rate of technology disruption is encouraging a qualitative change for both patients and doctors. “Digital health” is bringing in the cultural transformation of how disruptive technologies bring patients and doctors to an equal level, enriching their relationship with shared decision-making, democratizing healthcare.
With digital technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality/augmented reality, 3D-printing, portable diagnostics, telemedicine, health sensors and wearables, the entire structure of healthcare has undergone a drastic change. Patients and doctors as well have witnessed a fundamental shift from their current status quo.
The transformation of traditional healthcare poses some serious ethical challenges and considerations to policy-makers in unprecedented ways. Is it lawful if insurers or employers want to gather data from their employees’ direct-to-consumer genetic testing results? Who should have health data access? Who will be responsible in case of a surgery mishap? How to deal with medical robots? What if someone hacks medical devices? What about gene editing and designer babies? With technology disrupting the healthcare industry to such a great extent, queries are on the rise. Also, the expectation people have from technology to do miracles like designer babies are increasing.
Medical professionals, policy-makers, and basically, every person responsible should contemplate the possible responses to press such ethical questions and the challenges associated with digital health. As the waves of technologies are over-flooding patients, the faster the appropriate answers come from the regulatory side, the better it will be for the whole society. The lack of initiative and reluctance for physicians as well as policy-makers to adapt to this cultural transformation make patients force to initiate these changes. Although, there are positive examples as well – FDA approving an artificial pancreas as the result of the #WeAreNotWaitingMovement.
No matter how challenging it is, medical professionals, along with the policy-makers, should always be proactive regarding the adoption of digital healthcare technologies. They must lead the role of guiding patients through the myriad of new digital health technologies. This is precisely why they need to be up-to-date and open-minded. They must ensure that patients don’t turn to non-proven technological solutions, as it can be risky. The medical professionals must involve patients as partners in designing healthcare solutions and in making healthcare decisions.
As disruptive digital health technologies have the potential of eradicating repetitive and monotonous tasks from physicians, they can be more focused on the patients. Medical professionals can focus on providing social care, empathy, and human touch with digital health, taking care of the rest. Letting the medical professionals treating patients with empathy and more care is thus the ultimate goal of digital health.