Is The Digital World Changing Our Attitudes To Our health?

This month I have a medley of news stories where technology and social media have caught my attention. It has made me think how the on-line culture has changed our attitudes to our health as we now reveal more details about our medical conditions in discussions on social networks, blogs, and other online forums than we share with our doctors! We talk about our experience with illness and the medications we’re taking in detail. We bring up issues we don’t realise are relevant to our treatment or that we’re too embarrassed to share face to face. As a positive result companies are now tapping into this and starting to gather this online chatter for valuable information that can identify trends in patient symptoms and outcomes, track the effectiveness of treatments, spot complications with drugs and drug interactions, identify patients for clinical trials, and identify market opportunities.

Another, news story that caught my eye is that Lord Darzi a former health minister has launched an iPhone application so patients can keep track of their NHS appointments and rate the services they use. Lord Darzi hopes people will use the app called the Wellnote in the same way that they use online hotel and restaurant review sites. It lets patients enter their medical history, including whether they have allergies, specific problems and their test results. The idea is that this record can be emailed or shown to a doctor if an emergency arises. The application contains a list of more than 2,000 medications to help people enter the specific drugs they take, and alerts can be created to tell patients when to take tablets and when they have an NHS appointment. Users can anonymously rate healthcare services in England in the same way they rate music on iTunes. The scores will appear alongside official ratings from the Care Quality Commission so patients can compare scores.

This is good feel story, as the winner of the UK’s first ‘AppJam’, that took place in Dundee, where enterprising apps are given awards, was ‘iGiveadam’. It was awarded the top prize for ‘Best Overall App’ and helps blood donors connect with each other through social media and reminds them of when they can next give blood. The app also provides locations of the user’s closest donation centre along with general public announcements. The app has already attracted considerable interest from a number of international firms looking to publish it for overseas territories.

In my last post I mentioned that it seems more and more people are turning to Doctor Google for their personal diagnosis and that medical professionals now have to bring the calm weight of their experience to the Googling patient. However, imagine this…a trainee doctor trawling for symptoms on their laptop. Physicians, we know that even you must resort to the web sometimes – but please, keep it hidden. We desperately need to believe that you know better than Doctor Google.

John Crisford, Director

Sherwood Healthcare

Tel: 01277 822922