Acceleration in digital healthcare due to Covid
Covid-19 created a profound digital transformation across public and private sectors. The need to implement rapid social distancing rules and the closure of working premises led us to the mass adoption of new technology solutions that kept us moving forward in an otherwise stagnant situation.
In the healthcare sector, we witnessed an accelerated adoption of such solutions: Mental health applications, digital physiotherapy, remote monitoring, video consultations and telemedicine.
Remote solutions to health concerns were employed but, in their initial stages, could not satisfy demand or embrace a culture of empathy towards patients. First-generation technology innovations were somewhat problematic, but the digital health movement has created promise for the future of patient care.
The rise of long covid
Over 900,000 people were admitted to hospital with cases of Covid-19, and a further 2 million are reported to be suffering the long-term impacts of the virus. The NHS staff were put under tremendous strain as we witnessed first-hand a shortage of resources and staff amidst the global crisis. While the worst of the virus is widely considered subsided, its impact remains noticeable to those affected.
Physical symptoms of long Covid include fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, confusion, joint pain and much more. Many individuals felt shame towards their diagnosis of long Covid, a clear indication of psychological implications stemming from a medical illness.
Statistics across the UK 2020 regarding well-being report a 27% increase in psychological distress in adults compared to the previous year. Among the top issues were loneliness, depression, anxiety, and self-harm intrusive feelings.
The impact of emerging technologies
Advancements in AI can help calm the nerves of those affected by providing relevant data, informed answers to questions based on individual circumstances and data algorithms. This allows around-the-clock access to trustworthy information without having a physical doctor and a concentrated point of contact for patients.
Technology can also be harnessed to train staff at a more consistent and coherent level nationwide. Improving doctors’ insight into the patient experience will positively impact their empathy skills, allowing for a more empathetic culture and approach within medicine.
Taking a blended approach to improving patient outcomes
A higher recognition of long Covid and more accessible supportive care is necessary to improve the overall journey. By creating an environment where patients have access to a hybrid of medical technology and human touchpoints based on empathy, the health sector can guarantee improved standards of patient care while lowering the workload on the medical staff
The health sector must adopt modern technology while encouraging a more blended approach toward patient outcomes. We recognise digital innovations to provide advancements for physical medical needs, but it also proves useful in addressing patients’ mental and social needs.
Meanwhile, the second generation of medical technology must be employed and adapted to aid physical, mental, and vocal activities that assist in aspects of patient care that have previously not been so robust, such as mental strain, attention span, anxiety, and stress.
We will see long covid being combatted with a mixture of digital innovation with human understanding.
Overcoming future barriers
Historically, the medical sector has been hesitant to embrace digital health solutions as they were viewed as somewhat counterproductive. As cited by the Royal Society, the potential disruption to the delicate relationship between patients and clinicians posed a key barrier to digital transformation.
Generally, younger generation doctors and patients were more open to the shift towards the digital health world, recognising the advantages it afforded their experiences, but older patients remain less convinced.
Research conducted by the University of California, San Francisco, supported these findings, noting that older generations were more willing to use telehealth communication if they knew their doctors but were apathetic to the idea of the online first consultation.
In the UK, patients were most receptive to adopting digital health solutions; according to our research, in 2021, over a quarter used video consultations (27%) and a quarter (25%) used telemedicine services.
The NHS app is also one of the most downloaded apps in the UK, proving patients’ enthusiasm to embrace the newest convenient technologies. The strategy to improve patient care cannot be solely technological but must focus on a marriage of technology-based innovation and emotive human skills where they count. This is the only way that we will solve the resurgence of covid, long covid and other future illnesses.
Teun Schutte is the strategy director of healthcare Mobiquity.
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