For the past decade, we have witnessed significant changes in the health care system. These changes have enabled fast and efficient health care delivery, in addition to assisting health care providers to reduce their operational costs (Kumekawa, 2004, p. 1). On the other hand, patients are now in a position to better manage their health conditions, even while at remote locations. Some of these changes that have been witnessed include telemedicine, the use of electronic transfer of patients’ records, and use of the internet to communicate patient-specific information amongst health care practitioners. (For example, E-mail). With many of the health care providers having embraced information technology, it may be expected that patients will demand additional quality in the provision of health care. This is as a result of their becoming more informed about their health, thanks to the internet. On the other hand, health care providers are expected to release more technological methods of ensuring patients have access to effective and efficient health care. Governments shall also be more alert in ensuring that patients access quality health care form the health care providers.
Future trends in heath care
In more ways than one, the internet has proved to be perfect medium through which patient-specific information is communicated. At the moment, various incompatible systems contain computerized healthcare information about patients, and this has made it easier for the healthcare practitioners to share the necessary information regarding the health of a patient fast. In the process, patients receive medical attentions promptly. Traditionally, a patient could only bridge the existing information gap regarding their health by consulting their doctor. However, in this age of the internet, the status quo has already been changed. As a result, patients can access interpreted medical information over the internet. Thanks to the increasing amount of information available online on the various health issues, patients have been seen to increasingly demand access to certain forms of treatments and procedures from their general practitioners. In case such demands are not met, they have the choice to walk away to another physician willing to provide them. Given that the internet is now ubiquitous, it has becomes increasingly easier for the information of patients to be viewed by health care providers, even in the remotest of locations (Kumekawa, 2004, p. 2).
Thanks to the advancements in technology, healthcare has also embraced information technology, by moving online. Whereas it is not practical for health care workers to have a dialogue with patients afflicted with chronic health conditions, and who have been placed under home care for example, nonetheless, these health care workers can now examine their inline medical records, following an automatic update by the patients after they have taken their medication, recorded their blood pressure or even checked their weight. Thanks to the use of this from of technology, it is now possible for medical workers to ensure that even those patients that are in remote locations are not only able to access health care attention, but that they also remain healthy. Furthermore, advances in technology now enable health care workers to identify health problems that might be facing their patients at an early stage, effectively correcting them before they turn worse. As the incidences of managed care escalate, there is a dire need on the part of patients to ensure that they are making the right decision in enhancing doctor-patient relationship (Liederman & Morefield, 2003, p. 265). The use of chat-room conferences and e-mails are therefore ways through which patients have their questions regarding their health answered promptly, as opposed to having to wait up to the next appointment. Accordingly, one can visualize how the internet has enabled patients to assume an active role in as far as the medical care they receive is concerned. The issue of reduce cost of health care comes in. for example, as opposed to having a physician physically mange their chronic conditions, a patient may use advanced in technology within the medical field to help them manage their health conditions right at home. In this case, patients receive training on the measurement of such vital tests as blood sugar levels, blood pressure readings as well as asthmatic peak outflow. The patients can the log onto the website of their physician and submit the recorded readings to their physician, and wait for a reply.
Telemedicine is a term used in reference to the practice of offering health care by health workers to patients that are located in remoter areas. In order to achieve this, the application of medical knowledge is necessary, in addition to computer technology and communications (Kumekawa, 2004, p. 2). The hallmark of telemedicine is the ability of a health care practitioner uses advanced technology in health care to monitor the progress of a patient on home-based care. In this case, heath workers can effectively monitor a patient’s blood pressure. Telemedicine affords monitoring solutions for patients in remorse locations, with more emphasis placed on chronic diseases that re characterized by high morbidity, such as the heart diseases and diabetes. Amongst the developing countries, there has emerged a novel way through which telemedicine is practiced. The method, popularly known as ‘Primary Remote Diagnostic Visits’, allows a doctors for instance, to not only examine a patient, but also to treat him/her, through the use of remote devices. The new technology is already heralded as remedy to the mitigation of numerous problems that characterizes the delivery of health care in the developing countries. This is because the method assists in monitoring as well as the management of chronic diseases. Based on the potential for telemedicine in the future, we may expect that the health care system shall in the future establish compatible standards regarding its information systems, to increase patient service delivery. In addition, we may also anticipate the implementation of a framework that entails organizations, ethical, clinical, legal, and technical and usability aspects of telemedicine. The establishment of proper guidelines for purposes of easing the practical implementation process of telemedicine could also be anticipated, in the years to come.
For a long time, effective communication has been the hallmark of a cordial relationship between on the one hand, a doctor and on the other hand, his/her patient. As a result of the ensuing reciprocally favourable patient-doctor relationship, we are now witnessing an increased number of physicians and patients that are satisfied with this communication arrangement, in addition to enhanced clinical outcomes. Although new inventions within the medical fields have immensely helped to revolutionize the patient-doctor contact, however, any observable potential benefits are almost always faced by numerous concerns, ranging from security, unwarranted everyday intrusions and privacy. The dramatic increase in the use of the internet is not just restricted to personal issues; a majority of people now use it to communication with friends and families about their health issue, through the use of such tools as e-mail. A study that was undertaken by Liederman and Morefield (2003, p. 265) revealed that nearly 85 percent of the patients interviewed were of the opinion that the use of e-mail was the best way through which a patient could easily communicate with her/his doctor. The primary reason for patients sending an e-mail to their physicians would be on grounds of nonsurgent consultations, prescription refills as well as for purposes of getting the results for laboratory tests. Conversely the responses given by physicians to e-mails sent by their patients could be detailed in nature, although there are physicians who opt not to respond at all. Since the use of the e-mail is an emerging technology within the medical field, and given its widespread application, along with the impact it has on patient-doctor relationship, the AMA (American Medical Association) has deemed it necessary to issue” Guidelines for Patient-Physician Electronic Mail (Lewers, 2000, p. 3).
Already, the risks and benefits that characterize the use of e-mail to facilitate patient-physician communications have been identified. With regard to benefits, they include simplicity, affordability and convenient forms of communication, translating into reduced calls that patients make to their physicians, in addition to enhanced connection to the education materials of a patient. However, there are also security and privacy concerns of patient, as well as the possibility of overloading physicians. Nonetheless, patient-physician communication using e-mail has the potential to enhance, in addition to reconfiguring, the functions of a physician’s office.
We may expect that in the next five years, patients and practitioners shall embrace such popular social networking sites as Facebook and Twitter as a means to enhance patient-physician relationship, as a supplement to the use of e-mails. Furthermore, use of online chats may also be expected to increase, seeing that these are more prompt, in comparison with e-mails.
Electronic transfer of patient records
The internet has also enabled the transfer of the records of a patient from one physician to the other. The implication the records do not have to be inputted manually into the computer systems of the other physician. It also rules out the use of record in paper format (Chen & Lin, 2004, p. 152). Through this system, health care practitioners are not only able to dramatically the time taken to attend to a patient, but it also increases the chances of having accurate patient records. Given that an increasing number of patients normally change their personal physicians on an annual basis, the use of the electronic transfer of records from the current physician to the new one increase the value attached to the current physician systems, in addition to increasing the effectiveness of the overall healthcare system. In the next five years, it may be expected that electronic transfer of patients’ records will have been embraced by an increased number of health care providers. Accordingly, the response time of physicians towards emergencies for example, shall increase dramatically, further curtailing the number of casualties.
As a result of how ubiquitous the internet has becomes, patients are now demanding better quality health care from their physicians. In addition, the internet has also enabled patients in remote locations to access health care services, thanks to the now popular telemedicine concept. Also, the relationship between on the one hand, a patient and on the other hand, their physician, appears to have improved, thanks to the use of such internet services as e-mail to facilitate communication. Even as the patients increasingly gain more knowledge regarding their health, in effect placing more demand on quality health care from their physicians, nonetheless, the future looks bright in the health sector, due to the advances in information technology. The use of such social networking sites as Facebook and Twitter also be embraced by the health sector, to enhance health care service delivery. In addition, use of chat room conferences will also enhance the communication process between a patient and his/her doctor.
Chen, J. C. H., & Lin, B. (2004). Improve processes on healthcare: current issues and future trends. International Journal of Electronic Healthcare, 1(2):149-164
Kumekawa, J. (2004). HIPAA: How Our Health Care World Has Changed: Future Trends and Challenges. Online J Issues Nurs, 10(2): 1-2. Web.
Lewers, D. T. (2000). Guidelines for patient-physician electronic mail [monograph on the Internet]. Chicago: American Medical Association, Web.
Liederman, E. M. &Morefield, C. S. (2003). Web messaging: A new tool for patient-physician communication. J Am Med Inform Assoc, 10: 260–70.