Digital health technologies may prove to be a double-edged sword

By TNT Bureau

NOV 22, 2016: Digital health technology has emerged as one of the brightest hopes for medical practitioners as well as patients. However, its impact on National Health Service(NHS) is unclear, finds a report by Nuffield Trust, the healthcare research charity.

The push to ensure patients can make enhanced use of technologies to communicate with healthcare services online carried with it risks, according to the report.

Digital patient

The digital patient that aims at transforming primary care takes into account seven types of digital services provided by NHS in primary care, like wearables, apps, online access to medical records, etc.

Sophie Castle-Clarke, the report author said that digital health tools that patients use to stay healthy and supervise their conditions at home will be important to the future of the health service. However, this technology may prove to be a “double edged sword”, and there are numerous things that are still unknown, added Clarke.

There is the potential for digital health to enhance care and decrease strain on the health service. However, decision-makers are required to cautiously weigh the advantages against the risks, the report said.

The report found that around 165,000 health apps and certain digital health devices may not have been officially examined. There is an app assessment scheme run by NHS Digital and the National Institute for health and Care Excellence that will assist GPs recommend evidence-based apps in the near future.

In the meantime, enhanced use of technology can boost demand for aid among patients. Somemay lose interest in wearables and return to other forms of contact.

Changing ways of working will take time, and need a change in health service culture. Technology will not act as a ‘magic bullet’ for staff, said Clarke. Without guideline and a cautious look at the evidence these digital tools could negotiate the quality of health care and disturb the way care is offered, Clarke concluded.

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