From wearable devices to mobile apps, technology is empowering people to take their health into their own hands.
Hugh was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He uses social media to connect with other sufferers and research the latest treatment options. He records and monitors his diet and blood sugar levels through a smartphone app, which is synced with his doctor’s clinic. Hugh’s levels become unstable, so to identify patterns, the doctor fits him with a continuous glucose monitor – a patch on his skin that automatically sends data to a small monitor.
Technology is transforming the healthcare industry and enabling a more connected and collaborative approach to care than ever before. While adoption has been comparatively slower in health than in other industries, technologies such as mobile apps, wearable devices and social media are shaking up the delivery of care and putting the patient in the driver’s seat.
Tapping online health resources
People want to be involved in managing their own health. And with the internet’s limitless ocean of information, they have access to a huge depth of health resources. Rather than relying solely on a doctor to tell them how to live healthily, people can stay informed through online sources. This includes social media. Younger generations in particular are using platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to research and make decisions about their health, and connect with others experiencing similar issues.
Wearable health technology and apps
Wearable devices are also causing waves. They topped the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2016 in the American College of Sport Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal. Such devices range from fitness trackers and smartwatches to heart-rate monitors and patches that can measure indicators such as body temperature, heart rate and hydration level.
According to Deloitte Australia’s 2015 Mobile Consumer Survey, 15 per cent of survey respondents own or have ready access to a fitness band – and globally, Australians are leading adopters of wearable tech.
Some wearable devices connect with mobile apps – another technology trend transforming healthcare. According to PwC’s Health Research Institute, the number of US consumers with at least one medical, health or fitness app on their mobile device doubled from 2013 to 2015 – a jump from 16 per cent to 32 per cent. There are health apps for everything from measuring your heart rate and managing diabetes to monitoring your sleep cycle and learning yoga.
These technologies – along with tools such as online patient portals and a growing focus on patient-centred care – are ushering in a new era of personalised and empowered healthcare in which people have greater control over their own health. It’s a shift that’s enabling a more proactive approach, better continuity of care, reduced costs for healthcare providers and governments and, ultimately, better health outcomes.
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