The Era of the E-Patient…

Technology has infiltrated every part of our lives, even more so than you might expect. Currently, a new technological trend in patient care—maybe self-care is more accurate–has ushered in a digital health revolution that will change the way you view everyday healthcare—and many signs show this change might be for the better.

The era of the E-Patient has arrived.

For those uninitiated to the knowledge, healthcare and medical treatment can seem like a mysterious knot of data, science, and hope. Especially in the last century, health care practices have advanced remarkably, aided by technological and scientific research. The things doctors can accomplish nowadays would have seen them burned at the stake a couple centuries ago. But while modern patients are much more educated and accepting, they still sometimes struggle to understand exactly what to do or how to approach a medical issue. But that is quickly changing.

The E-Patient movement is, at its forefront, a movement of empowerment. Through the internet and mobile devices, everyday people now have access to thousands of medical journals and articles, millions of personal testimonies and practical advice, and pages upon pages of information about health concerns and preventative measures that can treat or discourage future ailments. Today, we can take responsibility for our own basic healthcare and begin to comprehend what decisions to make regarding our future well-being and the health of our loved ones.

E-Patient Trends and Services

The modernization and increased portability of both internet-accessible devices and medically useful tools have caused the greatest amount of empowerment in the rise of the E-Patient digital health revolution. The most useful tools include the following:

  • Accessible online databases and medical knowledge—through cell phones, apps, and personal computers
  • Personal monitoring devices and medical technology (wristbands for joggers that gauge heart rate, portable blood pressure machines for at-home use, etc.)
  • Online support groups and personal sites that detail medical battles or provide alternative options for patients suffering from chronic illness

    Benefits and Drawbacks of the E-Patient

While there are certainly several major benefits to this evolution in healthcare, there are also several drawbacks worth mentioning as well.

One major drawback involves digital health hackers. Legislation has pushed the medical world to move towards a more cohesive Electronic Health Records (EHR) format that would make record keeping and sharing much more efficient. The drawback is that once that information enters the digital world, gaining access is a greater possibility. Hackers, thieves, and digital terrorists exist all over the internet, many having exceptional skill in accessing personal health record information if the defenses are not top notch.

Another potential problem is that technology—or lack thereof–can also cause a “digital divide” based on socioeconomic levels; while technology can act as a bridge between socioeconomic levels, lack of access to the necessary tools and skills to use that technology can keep many from taking part in the E-Patient revolution.

The benefits, though, are numerous.

The most significant change is that healthcare professionals are starting to move towards a patient-centered model of healthcare. They are realizing that a health-conscious and empowered patient population means that they will have to treat patients a little differently, affording them greater access to engagement tools and features—and answering their very educated questions about conditions, concerns, and treatments. In the end, this will benefit most practices, if they can embrace the changes instead of fighting them.

The increased accessibility of information and the knowledge of how their health choices can tie into their whole lives is pushing individuals to make better decisions. Many families even take into account where they choose to purchase homes in order to ensure proximity to parks, recreational centers, health food stores, and other wellness-related activities or facilities.

What it comes down to: people are taking responsibility for their own health and well-being. They are soaking up knowledge from all across the world about how to live better and prevent illness. If already diagnosed, they are using modern technology as both a source for information about their options and a tool for bolstering their spirits and maintaining a sense of hope for the future.

The E-Patient era has arrived and there’s no going back now. Thankfully, few of us would want to.