Right before moving to Denmark I needed to go see my GP for a medical certificate. With my departure in mind I decided to ask her for a copy of my medical record. My GP reacted surprised, probably because my medical record isn’t all that exciting, and not many of her patients had asked her before. She told me to come back for it another day, she would ask her assistant to print it out for me. Not such a bad proposition, however, it did make me think of how surprising it is that the health sector still makes little use of modern technologies and that people are not in charge of their own medical records.
We drive cars with heated seats, Google knows more about us than our best friend, and we manage our bank accounts and private email on our mobile phones wherever we are. However, in healthcare people are still working with incompetent computer systems and prehistoric machines like faxes and beepers – and this isn’t because we need to either. eHealth is the transfer of health resources and health care by electronic means (WHO). An electronic exchange of medical information can support health care professionals and patients. It can also cause an incredible development in the health sector, giving researchers and decision-makers access to new data, a process that will help to ensure all health care interventions and policies are evidence based. It is still a relatively new concept, but one that is slowly being adopted by more countries. Now while this blog is not meant to provide you with an intensive study of all the possibilities and risks of eHealth, it allows me to share with you how eHealth has the potential to spark a revolution in healthcare.
All countries have major health challenges ahead of them. An aging population and an increase in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will represent a major challenge in all countries, while low- and middle-income countries are set for even bigger challenges . We will rely heavily upon innovative solutions to deal with these challenges and it is essential that we embraces these technologies.
The first steps are already being made; several countries have started introducing electronic health record (EHS) systems. Jordan introduced the Hakeem program in 2009, which is a single electronic network for the entire Kingdom. These EHS systems provide online access to patients’ medical history and have many benefits for doctors, researchers and policy makers.
The implementation of eHealth in countries allows us to rethink our traditional healthcare system in society: we can develop electronic systems to aid the current health care systems, but also use it to help us advance and improve the systems.
Personally I suggest we use eHealth to empower patients. We can use this opportunity to create electronic systems that give people access their medical records online, which in turn will allow people to share their information with doctors of their choice. It will be faster for doctors to access a patients’ history in case of an emergency, and it will also very useful when people need to see a doctor while traveling. Australia has introduced a personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) that allows people to control their health information and manage their own health.
It doesn’t stop there though, there has is more in store for us, a new frontier for eHealth, aptly named mHealth (mobile health) is quickly developing. There are countless apps out there that help you choose a healthy lifestyle or that can be of support for patients dealing with a chronic disease. Apps like Crowmed can support doctors dealing with difficult cases. mHealth is an effective tool in low-income countries where has been used to help healthcare professionals reach out to their patients even in rural areas. Copenhagen University is currently conducting a study in Zanzibar, called Wired Mothers, to see if mobile phones can improve maternal and neonatal care
People do not enjoy being patients, let alone being treated like one. When sick, all people want is to get better again or figure out the best way to deal with a disease. Let’s continue to make health care more comprehensible with the help of innovative apps. Let’s allow people more insight in their medical records and further improve communication between doctors and patients through personally controlled electronic records.