Today’s doctors find themselves in a world characterised by digital disruption. Globally, healthcare costs are skyrocketing. This trend has been fuelled by ageing populations, the growing number of patients with non-communicable diseases, the increasing prevalence of high-cost treatment options and other factors. Digital healthcare innovations offer solutions to these problems that we cannot ignore.

We must respond to the needs of our digitally savvy patients

Today’s tech-savvy patients expect doctors to put them at the centre of care, using electronic platforms. It’s not unusual for patients to arrive at consultations having already accessed online information relating to their symptoms – whether reliable or not. Our patients are increasingly digitally connected, informed and empowered and they want additional, digital options for communication.

From paper-based systems to digital advances and beyond

Around 28 years ago, when I first started out in a paper-based private practice, the telephone was our only means of speedy communication. Almost three decades later, we work in a hyper-connected world where access to real-time, accurate, digitally-enabled information is a given, an imperative.

The introduction of electronic health records on Discovery HealthID via an app in 2012 brought a sea of change. Suddenly, with patient consent, we were able to view a patient’s health history; access blood, pathology and radiology results; write electronic prescriptions and referrals to other healthcare professionals; apply for scheme authorisations in real time, and more.

Virtual consultation technology is still relatively new to patients, and doctors also fear the liability that could come with missing something during a remote consult. With greater awareness around these platforms, these issues will be addressed. When I first see a patient, there is no technology between us. I introduce a patient’s electronic record only after giving them the first few minutes of our consultation to speak, uninterrupted, and explain their situation. Patients need to feel heard. Then, we look at their HealthID record – together. Seeing their electronic health record helps them to take ownership of, and understand their health. The human desire to engage with another person will never fade, especially when we are sick and most vulnerable. But technology allows us to expand our reach on various levels and gives our patients options for heightened, on-demand access to primary healthcare.

I am hardly an early adopter when it comes to new technologies, but I do support medical platforms and innovations that work. Digital healthcare trends are manifesting all around us. We cannot stop the evolution that they have brought, let’s make it a priority to understand them and wield them well.

*SOURCE: Article supplied by Discovery Marketing Department http://www.discovery.co.za