Health is the third most searched topic online. And the patients, especially those suffering chronic diseases, are willing to talk about their condition with other patients, share their experience, tips, and feel the support of a community. Websites, online communities, blogs, or social media are just a click away, and now that most people have a smartphone (or two), there’s a blooming demand for apps.
With health apps available for almost any subject, the main issue is that healthcare professionals are not involved at any level. Just as an indication of this, less than 1% of the myriad weight-loss apps have been developed by healthcare professionals. This is certainly a risk for the patients, and a mistake by the sector as they are not covering a real demand by their target audience.
Higher numbers of engaged patients actually mean a decrease in the use of resources from the healthcare system. So to increase these numbers should be a focus area for the health industry. We can talk about Three A’s:
Access: patients need their medical history to be easier to access. They require more information.
Action: more information will promote an active role of the patients in the treatment of their diseases.
Attitude: a change in the attitude is needed, not only in the patients to be more involved, but in the healthcare professionals so they follow a more educational approach with the patients, as well as in the supply chain companies, reducing cost and improving quality of life of the patients.
The technology available today offers plenty of solutions to involve the patients. It is possible to design both apps and personalised care programs for the patients. It is key for the patients willing to do their research online, that the information is provided by healthcare professionals based on a scientific basis, relevant, accurate and reliable. And should the patients want to socialise about their condition, a space created by the professionals is much more reliable than any random web.
American cardiologist and geneticist Eric Topol is one of the most active authors (“The Creative Destruction of Medicine. How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Healthcare”) in the scientific field promoting the use of mobile technologies to improve healthcare practice, making it more preventive, personalised, and with the patients taking a more active role. This, at the same time, will mean progressive decreases of hospital and care costs, and the chance to share medical information of millions of people.