The Hospital of the Future: Your Own Couch.
Digitalization is changing our habits and encouraging us to stay healthy and take care of the ill. The time when we receive better nursing at home than queueing at a hospital might be closer than we think. Get to know the three new changes making waves in the health sector.
1. Your phone will turn into a pocket laboratory
One day in the future: you wake up to new day with a sore throat. You're laying in your bed wondering if you will infect everyone at work if you go in. There is no need to lie there and consider this for too long, because the tiny fake mole inserted in your skin has tracked your bodily functions throughout the night and has made an analysis of your ability to work. Your smartphone, that has wireless connection to the mole, states that you should stay home today. Next, an electronic prescription for throat medicine appears on the screen, ready to be picked up from the pharmacy. Meanwhile, the system has sent a message to your employer: due to illness, one worker will be absent today from work.
In just ten years this might be a reality. Today's technology is already offering the possibility to track our body functions in many different ways. With different sensors, you can gather information about your quality of sleep, blood pressure and stress levels straight from your smartphone. Phones can be used to carry out laboratory tests, but for now it's still difficult to put your own results and healthcare system together.
In the US, the marriage between digital tools and health has gone further. Over the ocean, nearly a third of the americans have dealt with virtual clinics. Even in Nordic countries there have been first steps of virtual nursing: in Finland, doctor corporation Meedoc is in talks to take care of university healthcare.
Digital health is already averaging as a 40 billion euro market worldwide and the iTunes app store collection has over 43 000 health apps. Some of these apps have been produced with the help of top researchers, but a lack of regulations is creating a lot of empty promises - in the end, it is still the consumer who is solely responsible when using the application.
2. Doctors are putting stethoscopes aside
Similar health apps are rapidly revolutionising doctors' briefcases. Over three million doctors around the world have downloaded an app that turns their iPhone into a stethoscope. With Google Glass - a virtual tool, healthcare professionals can instruct ambulance staff onsite at an accident directly from the hospital.
If the predictions are true, digitalisation will revolutionise the whole profession of nursing. If doctors are no longer tied up with measuring instruments, they will be able to concentrate on things that the machines can’t: meeting the patient, listening and being there for them. This means that doctors have to create a new bond with their patients. Instead of authority they are acting as mentors, advising their customers to maintain good health.
Even though on call duty doctors are still real humans, robotisation is already becoming the norm in the day to day life in many hospitals: remote machines are assisting in challenging surgeries, and nerve system failures are being rehabilitated with exciting games. Researchers at Gothenburg´s University have stated that games will be the cure of the future - not only proving to be effective, rehabilitation using games is also a lot cheaper.
We might be facing the biggest turning point in the history of medical science: according to some predictions, self-nursing will decrease doctor jobs by 80%. Even if these radical visions might not come true, the ability to control one's own health will require a new manner of approach from professionals.
3. Using the masses of information to increase life expectancy
In the future, people who are often sick will be a small priority in the healthcare system as the majority of resources will be aimed at preventing illnesses. When the priorities of healthcare do change, our understanding of health will change as well. In the future, we might as well not see “health” as life without disease, but as increased quality of life. According to one study, in this sort of society employers and schools will compete to provide the healthiest environments for workers and students.
Using the huge masses of information, such as databanks of register files, we can map out the risks of sickness and predict new diseases. This will prove useful for anticipating the future and allowing for big decisions that could lengthen life expectancy.
At best, the digitalisation of health service will increase freedom of choice: instead of focusing on getting care, patients can concentrate on comparing different services. However, this freedom has it's potential risks, for example, it is essential to make sure that the services will offer what they have promised. When health care information is given to individuals, we will have to re-evaluate our policies on privacy, security and handing over information to third parties.
With the help of all these health apps, we can all become experts of our own health. This means, that our individual responsibility of our own health will increase. So, in the future you might want to think twice before curing your sore throat with a shot of whisky, because your purchase lists will be sent straight to your insurance company. Until then, you can neglect or nurse your health as you wish - and be ready to queue at reception desk.
Push: “According to predictions, self nursing will decrease the amount of doctors by 80%”.
Social media push: #digitalisation is taking over #healthcare. Here are listed 3 things that will change our understanding of healthcare.