The transformative impact of digital technologies in health and wellbeing

The transformative impact of digital technologies in health and wellbeing

In our modern society, we are increasingly experiencing a greater than before occurrence of chronic diseases amongst the population. The World Health Organization estimates that 63% of all annual deaths (~36 million people) is attributable to non-communicable, chronic diseases.

Furthermore, chronic conditions are usually complex, rarely existing in isolation. Many people suffer from multiple conditions at the same time, a circumstance we usually refer to as multi-morbidity, making the management of their diseases a challenge for the healthcare system.

And as we live longer, such a challenge becomes more critical for an individual’s health and wellbeing.

As the clinical management of patients with multi-morbidity is much more complex and time-consuming, it involves a multifaceted organisation of care provision across different healthcare stakeholders. Different healthcare professionals, community and home-care givers, and the patients themselves, need to be involved in a co-ordinated approach to care provision activities. Such a co-ordinated approach needs to constantly tackle a range of diverse and, sometimes, contradictory requirements of people with multiple chronic conditions.

There is, therefore, a necessity to equip all involved in chronic-disease management with new approaches and tools, which can empower our modern healthcare system in dealing with this need. The way we look at healthcare provision for chronic diseases has to radically change.

Digital technology can be the proposition for this change. In particular, in the ever growing digital capability of our society, such technology can bring forward the power of information for an effective realisation of chronic disease management. An individual’s healthcare data, through the concept of electronic healthcare records, can be more readily available and provides a core facility in understanding the complexity of disease. Such data can also provide better insights for the whole patient journey in the context of chronic conditions.

Quality digital healthcare data, combined with our current evidence-based medical knowledge, allows professionals to make more precise, informed decisions on care provision and patient support.

Moreover, the transparent use of this information can empower the individual patient in their awareness of health and wellbeing, by involving them in their own healthcare management; this is achieved through the provision of feeding back information to the individual themselves for improved understanding of their condition and lifestyle needs.

In addition to information, digital technology can provide independence in patients’ lives, by supporting them in enhanced and integrated activity within our societal structures. Finally, technology can promote the concept of a digital community, where patients, careers and citizens can exchange views and information on the best available choices for people’s care and support.

The impact of digital technology and information can be transformative for healthcare. The benefits to individuals and society are multiple. People’s health journeys are better understood and appropriate lifestyle choices can be better tailored and promoted to the individual.

In the case of chronic conditions, disease management can be more effectively supported and avoidable deaths can be prevented. This has an effect in a more cost-effective healthcare delivery, where the healthcare system provides services in a more convenient, accessible and efficient manner. As a consequence, patients as citizens are put in the centre, and in control of their health and wellbeing.