Technology is revolutionising personal healthcare and will continue to do so with increasing precision and smarter monitoring. Find out more.
Technological advances and the increasing role of digital services are changing the way society operates. There are implications and opportunities for all industries, particularly healthcare. However, the healthcare industry is far from being fully digitised and although there is a huge market to be tapped, there remains a lack in truly delivering value to patients or those able to use self monitoring devices.
How digital is promoting self-diagnostics and self-monitoring
The growth of affordable smart monitors and the penetration of smartphones has lead to an increase in self-monitoring, using simple biometrics or fitness apps, But the smarter and more precise those apps get, the more opportunities will arise within healthcare – for example, extending self monitoring to blood pressure, blood sugar and heart rate to name just a few.
Advantages of self-diagnostics
Wearable technology allows a constant flow of personal data to be gathered without any effort on the consumer’s part. This has lead to an increase in interest among consumers about their personal data and its impact on their current and future health. 46% of people who tracked their health said it had changed their overall approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone for whom they provide care. (“Pew Internet & American Life Project, ‘Tracking for Health’, 2013”). The Consumer Attitudes Toward Health Care Technology survey noted that 25% of respondents said they used [health information] websites or technology as often as they visited their doctor and about the same number said they used it instead of visiting their doctor.
- 65% of all German patients Google their symptoms to check up on doctors’ diagnoses (“Zweitmeinungsverfahren aus Patientensicht“, Study by the Asklepiosk Clinics, 2015; http://www.presseportal.de/pm/65048/2891494)
- 17% admit that they try to diagnose themselves so that they do not have to visit the doctor (Gesundheitsstudie 2012, MSL) As well as providing accurate documentation to inform consumers about their health, self-monitoring can help detect symptoms and signs at an early stage.
The possibilities offered by self-diagnostics
- Personalisation of treatment
By having access to constant personal data, doctors are able to take a deeper look in to their patients’ health history.
- Earlier detection of diseases as well as more effective prevention of illnesses
This is particularly relevant for detecting hidden killers like high blood pressure or borderline diabetes as self-monitoring devices could measure temperature, blood sugar, blood pressure or similar basic health data. This has ongoing implications for predictive and preventive medicine . Wearable and mobile technologies are pioneering advanced sensors to provide consumers with deeper insights and encourage them to make healthier lifestyle choices. Technology can act as a motivator/personal coach. These sensors will make it easier for people to take care of themselves in minor cases before they get sick.
- Expanding the health infrastructure
An aging society and increasingly populated urban areas has put pressure on doctor numbers in both cities and rural areas. Technology allows healthcare facilities to be provided even where medical infrastructure falls short. This is particularly relevant to large areas of the world where there is a lack of access to doctors. Self-diagnostics could play a role in closing those infrastructure gaps.
Limits of self-diagnostics
While technology undeniably offers rich support in terms of data, trust remains essential in healthcare. No technology can replace the experience of seeing a doctor or receiving local treatment. What’s more, self-diagnostics provide data but never insights. In order to gain a true understanding of the user/patient’s health, the data must be analysed and interpreted.
Consequences of self-diagnostics for healthcare
Self-diagnosis presents a paradigm shift in healthcare as it allows patients to take on a stronger role within the patient-doctor relationship. This has led to some hesitance and reluctance of integrating these tools in the healthcare processes. Rather than closing one‘s mind to the prospect of change, the healthcare industry needs to search for ways to work together with technology to increase the possibilities that might open up. For example, technology can relieve medical professionals from performing time-consuming testing and monitoring, therefore freeing up time for more targeted care.
Self-diagnostics have to be based on reliable and high-end technology in order to provide trustworthy results and data. While it does not, and should not, replace the skills of the doctor, it can play a role in home monitoring, detecting diseases at an earlier stage and thus, benefiting preventive and predictive medicine . Technology cannot replace treatment but it can help to bring the right treatment to the right patients. Visualisation of the data plays an important role in helping users make more informed decisions, but the data still needs to be analysed in order to give meaningful insights.