Over the next few years, a new form of digital technology is going to become increasingly apparent in our everyday lives. Governments across the world are becoming more and more aware of the boundless possibilities that result when health care is combined with online technology. In a bid for the future, entrepreneurs are being encouraged to invest in digital health, developing new concepts and devices that provide a wide range of health-related services such as new ways to monitor and detect illnesses or facilitating medical education over the Internet. Dr Asif Qasim, renowned consultant cardiologist and founder of the medical knowledge sharing platform MedShr, gives his views on the subject.
It’s hard to miss the transformation of our health industry as it sweeps out the old methods, leaving space for new technology and innovation. Health-related applications abound, all seeking to encourage users to take control of their health. Some might be considered gadgets but others are having a significant effect on how medical care is managed and administered. Athletes have been using smart wristbands for years to track their heart rate and breathing and monitor their personal performance on the Internet. As Dr Asif Qasim points out, today, similar technology can be used for a wide variety of reasons, from community care for elderly people to the tracking of infectious diseases.
Asthma sufferers can monitor their attacks and treat their condition more effectively thanks to inhalers equipped with sensors that record vital information and send it directly to the physician. Chronic disease sufferers can take smart pills equipped with microscopic sensors that send alerts to caregivers when intervention is needed. Electronic panic buttons integrated into sensor-equipped wristbands are allowing elderly people to stay at home rather than go into care. They are the modern-day equivalent of emergency personal alarms, but much easier to reach in the case of a fall, says Dr Asif Qasim.
While these devices are aimed at consumers, the information they garner can then be used toward medical research. Data-sharing networks and electronic health records are also valuable sources of patient information that can be tracked and cross-correlated, providing insight into current health trends.
As Dr Asif Qasim underlines, networks connecting patients to their physicians and to other patients are also on the up and up. Remote consultations for people with limited mobility are making sure they get regular treatment. Forums and blogs for chronic disease sufferers provide emotional support and insider advice that can ease the burden of dealing with long-term illness. Isolation for elderly patients becomes a thing of the past when staying in touch can also mean staying at home, communicating with other people going through similar situations.
Dr Asif Qasim stresses the importance of peer-to-peer learning networks and shares his thoughts on how physician-only platforms are also contributing to saving many lives throughout the world. “Applications such as MedShr provide a secure environment for doctors across the world to upload, share and discuss cases and upload images or movie footage of procedures and operations. By connecting doctors locally, nationally and around the world, physician-only networks are improving healthcare and ultimately saving lives.”