The New Medicine: E- Healthcare
The author opens this chapter with the question "why should you ever be sick?" and suggests that IT can improve the health fo the average person and extend human life by educating individuals in ways that will prevent injury and sickness, "dramatically improved" medical record keeping, enable those who suffer from an ongoing illness or condition to join support groups, etc.
EN: the author goes on quite a while with hypothetical examples of the wonderful future and doe-eyed cheerleading that is beyond saccharine. I'm going to be acutely skeptical of what he has to say in the remainder of this chapter.)
Some of the potential resources that could be provided to physicians include:
- Access to patient records in a standardized format, including a complete patient history (for patients, this would eliminate much of the lengthy forms they must fill out at each clinic)
- Online medical journals could offer the very latest in research and treatment options, expediting the use of newer and better treatments.
- Online access to lab results, x-rays, and other diagnostic information - including the ability to compare current results with previous
- Accurate statistical data about the results of patient treatment from the clinical environment (for medical research or detecting and monitoring epidemics)
- The ability for physicians to be cataloged and rated (A boon to the competent, a warning to patients about the rest)
- Tools could be provided to ensure records are more accurate and complete
- Additional diagnostic aids, such as a camera that could be swallowed, a chip or piece of jewelry that contained medical data, a portable monitoring device, etc. could aid in various ways.
- Remote diagnosis, and even some medical treatment, can be provided by using cameras and robotics.
- Shared information and effort among the research community (such as the Genome Project) will lead to more rapid research and better dissemination.
EN: Some of this seems farfetched, but the author provides a reasonable explanation of the value of each of these possible applications)
The author indicates that there is "resistance to innovation" in the medical field, for fear of having their treatment scrutinized, losing "ownership" of patients, the inconvenience versus pen and paper, productivity interference, liability, etc. The author is dismissive of these concerns and feels there's a technology solution for each of them.
Patients are also reluctant, as they fear that digital records will compromise their privacy. The author's response is to point to the lack of security in the paper records kept in clinics (EN: nice try, but I'm unaware of a rash of burglaries of medical records, though an online repository would be a more inviting target for those seeking an opportunity to discriminate against or blackmail individuals.)
In addition to assisting physicians, technology can help individuals manage their own health care. Statistics are cited to indicate patients feel the availability of medical information has improved the way they take care of themselves.
The author uses the term "superpatient," but concedes that doctors currently dread them because they are constantly second-guessing medical advice. The author suggests that this annoyance comes from patients who are misguided by information that is wrong, misleading, out of date, commercially motivated, etc., and the author's suggestion is that the emergence of more reliable sources of information will squelch a lot of the bad sources that are out there.
The author mentions patient groups, or "support communities," whose members provide mutual support and can band together to be politically active to advance the progress of research. (EN: the author seems to think that this is a good thing). He alludes to a study (Preece) of messages in patient groups, and found that the majority were empathetic, provided helpful advice, shared patient experiences, etc.
Another possible use is patient self-monitoring: tools that enable patients to collect medical information (blood pressure, glucose levels, etc.) over time to monitor and control their diet and give their healthcare providers a better sense of the daily fluctuations and trends over time. These could be coupled sensor devices (such as a digital thermometer or blood pressure monitor) for in-home (and even remote location) monitoring.
A Medical Scenario
EN: The author patches a number of these ideas into a scenario to illustrate the ways in which technology could revolutionize medical treatment. Nothing new, just more "gee whiz")