By Steve Bond
It’s hard to dispute that technology has ingrained itself in our daily living. Improvements to devices and internet speeds have ‘connected’ 24/7. From the news you receive on your phone at the start of the day, to asking Alexa or Google to turn off the lights, we use various forms of technology constantly. Why should healthcare be any different?
Digital Health is transforming the delivery of care across Canada. For example, 64% of Canadians had at least one virtual encounter with the healthcare system in 2020. These visits save time, reduce exposure to transmissible diseases such as COVID-19, and save patients money (driving, parking etc.). For many of these patients, the physician or nurse practitioner sent the prescription electronically to the pharmacy. This type of e-prescribing is beneficial in several ways:
• due to the technology used, forged prescriptions are virtually impossible
• we don’t have to decipher “chicken-scratch,” which reduces errors
• communication between the physician and pharmacist are two-way
Another aspect of digital health is individualized applications and devices. Sensors, watches and other devices can measure your steps, heart rate and how long and deep you sleep. These can then be tabulated and provided to your doctor to analyze. Sensors can monitor our blood sugars to identify patterns of highs and lows and allow us to make adjustments to medications, diet and exercise accordingly.
A survey conducted in 2020, by Canada Health Infoway, entitled “Canadian Digital Health Survey: What Canadians Think” indicated that the use of digital technology is naturally on the rise, but more importantly, the demand is even greater. Of those people surveyed, 79% want access to their personal health information, 77% want electronic prescription renewals, and 75% want booking appointments online.
One caution I would share is that while technologies advance, there are certain instances when face-to-face contact is needed. A physical exam by a trained physician can identify issues that may not be apparent to the patient or seen with scans or bloodwork. In addition, as virtual walk-in clinics seem like an easy way to get rapid access, they often will not have a complete picture of you or your medical records that your family doctor or nurse practitioner would. So, for many instances, digital health improves our lives, we must remember that sometimes there is no substitution for the good old office visit. Take care of yourselves and each other.
By Steve Bond