With the dawning of the digital era, the 21st century has brought immense challenges to those working within the healthcare industry. Today’s providers are contending with economical, technological, and administrative barriers that can prevent many physicians from enjoying the full benefits of their training, individual capabilities, and creativity. But by adapting to new technologies and developing the skills that digital healthcare requires, providers will not only be able to find fulfillment through their work but also be able to keep their patients satisfied.
Digital medicine became ubiquitous circa 2007, around the time smartphones were introduced to the wider public. The connectivity of these devices introduced providers to a new way of generating health data, data that is then gathered by the individual, in real time, and in a real-world environment. The capabilities of smartphones to capture this real-time data has pushed the practice of medicine to a more individualized model of care.
The benefits of digital medicine are wide-ranging. For example, biosensors can allow physicians to track complex physiologic systems to generate data. It is digital medicine that makes the processing of increasingly vast amounts of data possible, whether generated via algorithms, cloud computing, or artificial intelligence. Smartphones, which are a huge component of digital medicine, contain the potential to democratize medicine by allowing patients to generate their own real world data. This presents an opportunity for patients to become deeply engaged with their own healthcare, which can truly transform the patient-provider relationship.
According to the American Medical Association (AMA), physician use of technology, such as telehealth or virtual care, has doubled since 2016, with nearly 30% of doctors adopting new forms of digital health technology prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Physicians who utilize digital technology to augment the care they provide found that digital health tools enabled patients access to clinical data, provided workflow enhancements, and enhanced clinical decision support and patient engagement. These tools also allowed for remote monitoring and management for improved care, as well as remote monitoring for efficiency.
Today, about 90% of doctors see some advantage in using digital health tools, especially when caring for patients with more chronic conditions. In addition to making remote care possible, digital technology has been shown to reduce the stress of many providers, resulting in fewer cases of physician burnout.
As digital health becomes more and more a part of the healthcare experience, providers can learn to utilize these tools not only in order to enhance the patient-provider relationship, but to prevent burnout within their own working environments.