Digital Medicine May Soon Save Your Life
The digital age has brought many conveniences and improvements to our daily lives. Many of us use computers, smartphones, and tablets at work and at home.
Compact, wireless devices have literally put advanced technology into the hands of consumers. That technology is now being applied in the area of medicine.
Also referred to as eHealth, digital medicine involves the application of new digital tools to record, store, and transform a patient’s medical data. This digital data is more easily accessed, more precise, more effective, and can be shared much more easily than today than in the past using traditional methods.
What really makes digital medicine different, though, is that patients, not medical staff, will be the ones recording, accessing, and sharing their own medical information. This is a revolutionary breakthrough for the treatment of cancer.
Through the use of digital devices and already available apps (software programs that give your handheld devices added functionality), smartphone and tablet owners are currently able to:
• Track and encourage physical activity with apps like FitBit;
• Record brainwave patterns to study sleep issues;
• Measure heart rate and provide cardiograms on a wireless device;
• Develop at-home programs tailored to your specific needs and limitations;
• Become informed and active participants in your health decisions;
• Live longer in your own homes;
• Access electronic personal medical records from anywhere; and
• Send vital information, like blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen saturation levels, to doctors
In fact, wireless handheld devices and apps are changing medicine right before our eyes. Eric Topol, MD, holds the Scripps endowed chair in innovative medicine and is the author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care.
Dr. Topol sates that digital technology is streamlining what was a previously wasteful and imprecise medical system. For the first time, medical apps are literally putting medical power into the hands of patients. Users are becoming better informed and more conscious about their own health. And in some instances, apps are even diagnosing issues and getting patients to see physicians when they might not ordinarily do so.
Digital medicine, though, is not limited to just monitoring and recording your own health.
The next step in improving the patient experience is remote monitoring. Someday, this may allow the condition of OHC patients to be monitored from their home. This option will save money for both insurance companies and the patient. Being in familiar surroundings is also better for the patient’s well being, and can promote healing.
On the horizon, Dr. Topol sees digital medicine moving into the area of gene sequencing. By storing a person’s genetic information, we can be sure that they receive the correct drug treatments that match their genetic make-up. For diseases such as cancer, that are genetically driven, this could be the key to treatment success.
Taking it a step further, we can envision nanosensors and other microscopic devices being placed into a person’s bloodstream to monitor different health conditions. For example, when cancer cells are found in the body, a signal could automatically be sent to a smartphone alerting the patient to see an oncologist immediately.
This technology could address a major problem in treating cancer; catching it as early as possible. Truly, digital medicine can save lives.
The research and development of digital medicine has made possible medical opportunities, advances, and insights that were thought impossible just a few short years ago. It is on the cusp of exploding and has countless possibilities.
The time of the stethoscope is at an end. But at OHC, we believe the digital tools replacing it will provide a greater opportunity for all of us to be more engaged with our health, make better lifestyle decisions, address cancer more effectively and immediately, and save move lives than ever before.