What E-Health can do for patients?
The need for e-health
The advance of e-health is unstoppable. There are more and more online services in many UK GP surgeries. You can request repeat prescriptions online, for example, have a consultation with the doctor via Skype or make an appointment using an online portal. Yet as few as 11 per cent of UK patients appear to use these services, which is crazy because there seems to be a need for these digital options.
Why is the take-up of these services so poor? Reasons include poor communication, too high a threshold and programs that are difficult to use.
What actually is e-health, what benefits does it have and how can you use it?
In this article, you can read all about this additional way of providing care.
What is e-health?
E-health is a form of care that uses information and communication technology (ICT), such as a computer program or an app. The applications of e-health are very broad. Here are a few examples of situations where you might use e-health:
Playing a game on your mobile that encourages you to exercise more
Having your blood pressure measured by a device that automatically transfers the values to your doctor
Viewing the results of your blood tests via your own electronic patient file
Receiving personalised exercises from your physiotherapist via email or via an app on your mobile
Submitting a question to your doctor via Skype
An online consultation
E-health can thus be used, among other things, to help you get started at home in improving or monitoring your health and to support the healthcare system. And these are just a few examples. The possibilities of e-health are very diverse and are constantly being expanded.
The benefits of e-health
One of the main advantages of e-health is the fact that the applications can be tailored to the needs of the individual patient, allowing the assistance to respond more quickly to personal needs. Moreover, e-health means that doctors and nurses can save a lot of time, which can be used to help more people – something not to be sniffed at with the ever-increasing pressures on the NHS.
Another advantage of e-health: as a patient you are much more aware of your own health. You can use e-health, for example, to view your own data, so that you are more informed when consulting with a doctor or other healthcare provider.
Managing your health yourself.
You can, for example, set an automatic reminder for ordering repeat prescriptions, or check the overview of previous consultations with your doctor or specialist. If you prefer not to visit the GP for certain reasons, it is also possible to arrange an online consultation.
Useful if the doctor is on holiday, certain medication is not available at your pharmacy or if your GP practice does not yet have online services available.
If you are finding it difficult to get an appointment, your local GP surgery has closed or you don’t have the time to make the trip to the pharmacy, you can now receive an e-consultation per Skype, or ask your doctor a question. All from the comfort of your own home. E-health offers more and more possibilities.
E-health and elderly care
If you think e-health is only suitable for young people, you are wrong! E-health can play a major role in elderly care. Think, for example, of an app that reminds elderly people to drink regularly. A dispenser that automatically delivers medicines at the right time. Or a virtual reality program with which you get instructions from a doctor while taking care of an elderly family member.
There are many ways in which e-health can be used to allow older people to live independently for longer.
Faster recovery thanks to e-health
E-health can also make a valuable contribution in the case of hospitalisation. Research shows that patients recover from surgery more quickly when they use an e-health application. There are many apps designed to help patients through the recovery process, such as Seamless MD, which accompanies patients on their post-surgery journies with reminders and clear instructions, and TrackMyRecovery, a free app which also enables clear personalised instructions about aftercare and the resumption of daily activities.
Have you already used e-health?
E-health is not limited to your GP. You can also use online services with other medical care providers. At many dental practices and outpatient clinics, for example, it is already possible to schedule an appointment yourself via the online system.
Despite all the possibilities, e-health is not being used enough. There seems to be a reluctance from the patient and the healthcare provider to fully engage with the innovations. According to the e-health monitor, the annual survey on the national use of e-health, the majority of patients still prefer to call the practice rather than login via their computer or smartphone, even if it means having a long wait.
According to the Nuffield Trust, this is partly due to the patients themselves. Many people suffer from fear thresholds when it comes to new services. A large number still prefer to go to the doctor to discuss their health problems. Technical problems also throw a spanner in the works. Patients who do want to make use of the online services are often repelled by a difficult login system or other user-unfriendly aspects. Calling directly or dropping in is simply easier.
According to the Deloitte Centre for Healthcare Solutions, the main reason for patients not using e-health applications is unfamiliarity. Many elderly people, in particular, cannot answer the question “what is e-health?” Doctors often do not know how to use e-health and this creates a vicious circle.
Many patients are also worried that contact with the doctor will be less personal during an e-consultation. Incidentally, both doctors and patients are more positive in their judgment once they have had online contact. In the case of e-health, familiarity does not breed contempt.
GPs are not aware of opportunities
Patients are not the only ones who are reluctant to try new technologies. GPs themselves are not always keen to offer e-health services. Some are afraid that they will be overloaded with emails or e-consults. Communication also plays a role: many GPs barely inform their patients about the new online services with the result that patients do not even know that these possibilities exist.
And that is unfortunate because services such as making an appointment online or requesting repeat prescriptions can reduce the workload in the general practice. Think, for example, of the telephone queue that would be a lot shorter.
In addition, it appears that nurses do not have much confidence in their own competencies when it comes to e-health, according to recent research. For example, they worry about not knowing what to do if the technology glitches or if an emergency occurs while using an e-health application.
What is e-health without users?
E-health offers great opportunities, both for caregivers and for patients. It is a shame not to use it because e-health is nothing without its users? In addition, e-health will only play a greater role in the future so it’s important to make yourself familiar with this additional form of care. Ask your GP, specialist or other healthcare providers about e-health possibilities.
For example, can you request repeat prescriptions online or schedule appointments? Or is an e-consultation possible? If you find it difficult to log in on the website, for example, do not hesitate to ask for help. Most care providers will be prepared to show you within the possibilities of e-health.
Have you ever used e-health? If not, give it a try! The sooner you get used to it, the better. In the future, e-health will only become more important.