New research in the UK Digital Health Report, published by Push Doctor, shows that one in four people in the UK admit to self-diagnosing their illnesses online rather than making a doctor’s appointment. The report found that 21.8% of people chose to diagnose their symptoms online because they were unable to get a doctor’s appointment (11%) or because their GP wasn’t available quickly enough (10.8%).
It’s no surprise that ‘Doctor Google’ is often the first place people go when they feel unwell. In this day and age of limited access to GPs coupled with the readiness of powerful search engines on your phone, the temptation towards self-diagnosis and choosing your preferred course of treatment is irresistible.
There’s no doubt in my mind that digital innovations and the use of data enable people to manage their own health – from blood pressure and glucose monitoring through devices and wearables to calorie intake and sleep pattern assessment through a vast quantity of apps. Technology is empowering people to manage their own health and this self-management can contribute to adherence and a more holistic approach to wellbeing.
The advice to ‘talk to your healthcare professional’ will never be surpassed and the advent of self-diagnosis is not without risks. However, there is an impetus for a change in how we deliver care also exists amongst healthcare professionals.
A Research Now poll released to coincide with the Astellas Innovation Debate 2015, found that almost a quarter of GPs would like health apps and personal devices such as smartphones available on prescription to help patients improve their lifestyle. Furthermore, tech savvy patients represent significant opportunities for the healthcare industry; to not only promote new disease awareness campaigns on social media but to engage them by developing valuable patient-focused digital platforms. These platforms need to allow physicians and patients to connect online with access to credible clinical data and analytics that enables accurate care decisions. To harness these opportunities, technology providers and pharma need to ensure they are offering tailored wearable devices, patient apps, engagement platforms and online services and communities that are focused on health-aware consumers while ensuring privacy and security are a top priority.
The future is exciting and as a healthcare communicator it’s clear to me that the future is digital health. Change towards online healthcare services and technology that focuses on wellness rather than illness are well underway; the challenge now is to make it meaningful and safe for patients and physicians.
Sarah Horgan, Senior Account Manager, Healthcare