In the quest for better health, we have a powerful new ally on our side: digital technology. There have been some truly exciting innovations in recent years, and they're being woven into our daily lives as we speak. It's something of a revolution, and I must say: it’s time.
The best part? Digital technology can empower you to improve your own health, and the health of your family.
Personally, I love technology—I guess I’m revealing my geeky side here because I’m holding my breath that, one of these days, somebody will invent a Tricorder (you know, those all-knowing devices the doctors had on Star Trek?). I covet one of those.
Here are some of the ways you can harness the power of digital health today:
I have a patient who has had hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) for many years. She knows all about it—the cause, the symptoms, the treatment, the ups and downs. So when we do her bloodwork, she is perfectly capable of understanding the results and knowing what they mean. Now, because of a new e-health function available in our community lab, she's able to see the results for herself. She reviews the results at home on her computer, then comes in to talk to me about it, fully prepared. More and more communities are making this a possibility.
There are other ways doctor's offices are going digital, which benefits everyone. Many physicians are now printing their prescriptions directly from a computer, or e-scripting, which reduces medical errors. And, increasingly, clinics are allowing patients to book and manage their own appointments online—a major stress reducer. If you've ever spent ages trying to get through to your doctor (and we've all been there) you know what I'm talking about.
Let’s face it, when it comes to staying healthy, nothing I say or do in a 15-minute appointment is going to have quite the same impact as what you decide to do every day, week in and week out. But making lifestyle change is hard. This is where digital health technology comes in handy. You can tech yourself healthier every day if you want. Here are just a few apps that can help with that.
Last week before doing a patient's pap test, I asked her the date of her last period. She whipped out her phone, pulled up her period-tracking app and reported the exact date. In fact, she’d been tracking her periods for a year, plus monitoring pre-menstrual symptoms and birth control side effects. I was impressed. But that's just one tiny example of people taking control of their own health through the use of digital technology.
The time is ripe for telehealth, and although the technology has been available in the wings for a long time, it’s finally starting to be implemented more widely. This is especially useful for people in remote regions, but there are obvious benefits for all of us.
Here’s a story about how a mom and her son are able to access very specialized care, even though they live in a remote community in the North:
In the past, if you wanted health information you had to ask your doctor. Or maybe your mom (who—let’s face it, probably had it right all along). But now, we have a whole new specialist to consult with our burning—and frequently embarrassing—health questions. We call him Doctor Google. The amount of health information online is absolutely incredible. There's a caveat, of course: there's a whole lot of questionable information out there too, so you do need to use caution and critical thought (see my post: Should You Google Your Health Symptoms?). But if you're smart about your use, there is a wealth of empowering information at your fingertips.
Innovators are creating all kinds of new tools we can use to get healthier, from electronic prescriptions to Fitbits and Nike + Fuelbands. The best of these help you work together with your doctor or health care team to optimize your health and wellness. For example, The Canadian Cancer Society has an excellent online program for helping people quit smoking. In London, Ontario, they are finding a new way to enhance mental health care through the Lawson Health Research Institute's SMART app. And the Fraser Health Authority in BC has created an innovative program called BreatheWELL At Home to help people gain more control over their chronic lung disease.
Digital health is important for Canada, and it's something we can be proud of. Canada Health Infoway has gathered stories from around the country, showcasing all the incredible things that are happening with digital health. The tools and solutions I've described are really just the tip of the iceberg. To learn more about digital health and how it can support you and improve the health of your entire family, check out betterhealthtogether.ca.
And I have to say, looking at all these innovations, I’m feeling pretty good about my chances of getting my hands on a Tricorder one of these days...
How about you? What do you think of the digital health revolution? Are there ways digital health technology has touched your family's life?
You use tech to make the rest of your life more manageable. Now use it to manage your health as well.
Discover how apps, software, and online support can help manage your family’s health care.
Do you or someone in your family have diabetes? Learn how you can use your smartphone to manage it.
Go high-tech with your medical history, prescriptions, and test results.
Learn more about the digital health tools available to you and your family and how they can help you take charge of your health care at www.betterhealthtogether.ca.