What does the future hold for an online patient? On a personal note, I believe the future looks rosy for the internet based patient (but that could easily be because of my day job). The online health care realm has penetrated remote areas and is taking medical care facilities right to the bedroom of the patients. In the financially poor regions, many people are deprived of health care facilities simply due to the fact that medical services, such as hospitals and clinics, are far away. E-Patient, therefore, has emerged as an alternative to the conventional methods of seeking care.
The Current State of E-Patient
So far, people have only started to explore what online healthcare is all about. We are into nascent stages of development of the technologies such as tele-medicine, Tele-pharmacy etc. Most E-Patients are limited to seeking prescriptions for small diseases. Comprehensive health care based on the internet alone is a tool still missing from the E-Patient’s toolbox . Also, we have been unable to set up comprehensive systems that help connect patients with physicians through online networks. These systems don’t allow monitoring of every aspect of care.
We may not be seeing holographic physicians anytime soon. However, online care is moving at a relatively fast pace. The rate of international coalitions in the field of medical science will soon yield results. We can see development and implementation of sophisticated online medical systems. The future holds great promises when it comes to healthcare, especially for the E-Patient.
Let’s start with medical devices. Equipment used in healthcare will in the future be able to transport more patient related information through the internet.
For example, weighing scales and emergency asthma inhalers will be able to detect and transfer patient information to an online system. The physician can use the data during the consultation and prescribe accordingly.
Other devices in the development are remote sugar-level detectors, blood pressure checking devices and sensors that can be embedded in a suit or used as regular household appliances.
E-Patients will soon be able to transport their entire medical information directly to their doctor using Personal Health Records.
Real time communication between patients and doctors is another major hurdle. Slow internet connection is the prime cause behind it. Most of the present internet connections are unable to deal with video conferencing and cannot carry large medical files. This can delay medical care, especially in times of emergency. Setting up a fast internet connection is the only way out. Governments worldwide are creating the infrastructure required to set up these advanced systems. This will increase the reach of Telepharmacy and Tele-health.
In the near future, technology will help an online patient in the following ways:
Managing and storing patient history
Organizing patient charts according to the information
Prepare in advance for medical procedures
Check injury and wound dressing
Help Coordinate and collaborate surgical procedures
Add to Health care terminology
Redefine laws of online Medical Safety
Better understand Human anatomy
Social Media Networks
The social media channels have evolved a lot in the past few years. Face Book and Twitter are the two main hubs. They are increasingly being used for seeking healthcare services. Patients can discuss some issues and get instant replies using these platforms. However, future may witness dedicated networks devoted to the medical sector. They may be paid in the beginning, just like a medical health insurance plan.
The networks may consist of in-house network of doctors and specialists catering to a community. These communities will hold all the medical data of a patient and will be inter-connected to other communities. People with similar conditions will be able to contact and share healthcare tips.
Safety and Laws
E-Patients today have to deal with fraudulent healthcare services. This is due to the fact that there are no such laws governing this industry. People are lured in by fake online doctors. However, with the big players stepping in, the online healthcare realm has improved a lot. The quality of services provided has also improved a lot. In the future, we will see governments stepping into this arena.
Laws and codes to be followed will be laid down. Physicians and doctors will become more transparent in their online dealings. The doctors will be able to get online education to improve their skills.
The technological part is easy and will progress without any issues. The legal framework, however, will be a little trickier. The technical as well as ethical codes have to be laid down in order to control the misuses of this realm of healthcare. E-patients will be able to access full leverage of online healthcare only after the optimum safety guidelines have been specified by their respective governments.