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The past decade has seen the most rapid increase in technological innovation. As well as shaping our social lives, it has had a massive impact on the world of healthcare, particularly in the way patient care is delivered and diseases are diagnosed. With increasing pressure on reducing costs while improving quality within the health sector, technology and the Internet are the most important forces to tackle these issues.
To gain a professional insight into this world, we interviewed Cardiologist and social healthcare advocate, Dr. Kevin Campbell, who is perfectly placed to comment on the future of healthcare. Here’s what he had to say:
Many people have suggested that Google glass may revolutionise medical treatment. What are your views on Google glass?
KC: I believe that Google glass may be a critical component to the training of future physicians and may radically change the way in which we train doctors. Through the use of Google glass, we are able to have medical students and residents see exactly what we (as the operating surgeon) see during the procedure. I believe that training doctors on new procedures with the help of Google glass will improve patient safety and patient outcome.
Should patients research their condition online before consulting a doctor?
KC: It is very important for patients to be informed about their condition before consulting a physician. By educating themselves prior to an interaction with their physician, they are able to ask the right questions and get the answers that they need. A word of caution however--it is important that patients utilize verified and reputable sources on the Internet when obtaining information. Ultimately however, an informed patient is an engaged patient. An engaged patient is an active participant in the treatment of his or her disease and research indicates that outcomes are remarkably improved when a patient is engaged.
Do you agree that online doctor consultations can save valuable time for both doctors and patients?
KC: I do believe that online consultations and interactions can serve as a wonderful complement to face-to-face interaction. Online consultations can be quite valuable in the maintenance of therapy but should not completely replace the routine office visit. For example, maybe a yearly face-to-face visit and then all follow-ups can be seen online (unless there is a significant change in status). Special exceptions however, may include remote areas of the world where travel and access is problematic.
If so, do you think it will become accepted by the masses in years to come?
I do believe that electronic/online MD visits will become more the norm in the years to come. As we continue to attempt to curb healthcare spending, I believe that we will see more and more adoption of this type of technology.
According to PewInternet, 19% of smartphone owners have at least one health app on their phone. From your experience, are there any mobile apps that can genuinely help patients?
KC: I think that many types of applications can be instrumental in helping patients. For the most part, any app that engages patients and allows them to track health indicators such as blood sugar, weight, blood pressure, etc can certainly improve outcomes. One app in particular is very useful for monitoring patients with heart rhythm disorders such as atrial fibrillation. It is called AliveCor --this app, in conjunction with a particular case for the iPhone can measure real time EKGs.
In your view what are the benefits of medical professionals speaking out on healthcare via social media platforms?
KC: I believe that social media in medicine is essential to success. The benefit of social media in medicine is that it allows MDs to:
Logging experience and emotion is extremely important to the wellbeing of a patient. With that said, can you outline the benefits of patient blogging?
KC: The act of blogging can be incredibly liberating for both physician and patient. I personally blog several times each week and have been doing so for several years. For patients, it allows them a platform to share their experiences and air their frustrations with their disease or with the medical system. In addition it is a great way for others to learn from the experience of a particular patient. For myself, it is extremely educational to read a patient blog from time to time--it often opens up my eyes to the "patient experience" and sometimes allows me to change the way I do things in order to improve the patient experience.
Data indicates that Facebook is the most popular social network among healthcare professionals. Which social media platform do you believe healthcare will benefit most from within the next 2-5 years?
KC: I believe that Twitter may be the biggest game changer. Today, the largest growing demographic for Twitter users is those over 65--this is a great platform to reach patients and interact in a productive way. Twitter is great to disseminate information, share experiences, draw attention to new treatments and successfully engage patients.
According to a survey by SearchEngineLand, 4/5 of online consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Do you believe we will see more emphasis on online reviews for websites within the healthcare sector?
KC: I think that the reliability of online reviews is suspect. Unfortunately, businesses have manipulated many of these sites and others begin to charge physicians to "improve their online reviews" I think that unless this is regulated we will continue to suffer from the "garbage in, garbage out" syndrome.
At HealthExpress, we make sure our patients are fully educated before they consider treatment. Do you think social media can be a useful tool to reaffirm these values?
KC: Absolutely. Social media is an incredibly effective way to educate patients about treatments and treatment alternatives. Twitter in particular is a great way to create a buzz and improve care.
Very insightful stuff from Dr. Kevin Campbell, his experience and expertise in the medical sector has highlighted some key issues relating to the future of healthcare and particularly, the way the Internet can improve patient care. You can follow Dr. Kevin on his twitter , or read some more of his articles on his blog here.