Technology is Disrupting Doctor Communication With Patients
The last few years have seen a striking leap forward in the pace of technological innovation across many different fields. Medicine, for example, is experiencing quite a transformation. Parts of the doctor-patient relationship that have been constant for many years are now changing due to the disruption of new technology. The three biggest revolutions have all changed the way patients and doctors interact: electronic medical records, telemedicine, and new diagnostic technology. In this post, we’ll talk about these in detail and explain how they have changed the administration of medical care.
Electronic Medical Records
Electronic medical records, or EMRs, are a massive change to the way doctors and hospitals keep track of their patients. It is much more than just digitizing some paperwork. The EMR approach opens up many avenues for cooperation between doctors. For example, an EMR system lets primary care doctors share basic test results with specialists, letting them avoid duplicating work. When care is coordinated like this, the patient gets quicker, more responsive, and better treatment. Obama’s Affordable Care Act mandates that care providers have to start using EMR systems, so the way doctors communicate with each other and patients about test results and other information is about to change forever (source: http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts/timeline/timeline-text.html).
Telemedicine is the concept of care over distance using technology to communicate. For example, a doctor talking to a patient over Skype when they are located miles apart is a modern form of telemedicine. As the name suggests, telemedicine is as old as the telephone, so this is not a new idea. However, the advent of high-quality video conferencing that is accessible to everyone, along with the presence of EMRs, means that doctors seeing their patients over the wires can get nearly as much information as an in-person doctor, so they can at least rule out some basic options in an emergency (source: http://www.americantelemed.org/about-telemedicine/what-is-telemedicine#.VgyHL5dWeFI).
Technology is already improving the tools doctors use to make tests and carry out procedures. But now, with the rise of artificial intelligence, computers can actually help doctors make diagnoses. For example, IBM’s Watson can respond to questions in natural language, and it has more medical knowledge than any single human on the planet. Two years ago, it could already diagnose some forms of cancer with far more accuracy than human doctors (source: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-02/11/ibm-watson-medical-doctor). That will soon expand to more types of disease. Watson will be able to diagnose faster and more accurately than humans, and even at lower cost.
The next few years hold a lot of promise for medicine, as these and other technologies build on each other to form a connected network of advanced medical tools. This is not a static area- these technologies are just beginning to revolutionize the doctor-patient relationship. The tech boom is going to sweep away the way we used to look at medicine. Nobody knows what the end result will be, but one thing is for sure- it’s going to be very different.