Innovation and Disruptive Product Design, News, Technology, Wearables

Healthcare technology – Taking charge of your health

Anna Wall

Anna Wall, Journalist
@uxconnections

With an increase in healthcare related apps, technology is helping people take charge of their health in new and exciting ways.

From apps like Helparound that provide peer support for diabetes sufferers, to Talkspace where people can access affordable text-based therapy, more and more people are turning to technology in order to take charge of their physical and mental health.

Can technology improve people’s overall health? Or will it cause us to lose the doctor-patient relationship and that essential human touch?

Taking charge and living large

According to Wired, wearable medical technology is the next step in healthcare technology.

Sufferers of Parkinson’s and ADHD can enjoy wearable tech that alleviates some symptoms so that completing simple daily tasks becomes possible.

Whereas for fitness junkies, apps like MyTraining allow access to coaches who can support the fulfilment of workout goals.

In fact, Professor Pattie Maes from the MIT Media Lab believes that technology is our most intimate partner in tackling health issues:

[…] our devices are with us 24/7, they not only have the potential to know us better than even our closest friend or family member, but they are able to support us in the moment, intervening when a situation calls for it.

The preoccupation with healthcare technology is not just a public fad. The UK government has put forward its plans to make better use of technology in healthcare, stating in the Personalised Health and Care 2020 framework:

Our ambition is for a health and care system that enables people to make healthier choices, to be more resilient, to deal more effectively with illness and disability when it arises, and to have happier, longer lives in old age; a health and care system where technology can help tackle inequalities and improve access to services for the vulnerable.

Technology is providing a range of healthcare options and both the public and governing bodies are ready to take advantage to improve health and wellbeing.

Losing the human touch?

MyTraining, Helparound, and Talkspace all offer some form of digital interaction with others. Helparound, however, offers actual face-to-face human contact.

It is this face-to-face quality interaction that some fear may be lost should we become dependent on tech to meet our healthcare needs.

Quoted in the Stanford Medicine blog Scope, Dr Abraham Verghese said that:

The ritual of the exam, when performed well, it really seals the physician-patient relationship.

However, NHS Digital in their Fit for 2020 report hope to increase online self-care services to reduce the need for GP visits.

The ritual of the exam may become a thing of the past.

According to a Brookings article, technology that connects us can also divide us. Or, at least it can distract us from putting down our devices and engaging meaningfully with the people around us.

With young people spending up to 9 hours a day on devices, a dependency on tech is far from healthy.

Tech as complementary healthcare

The solution may be to see healthcare technology as complementary rather than as replacing the need for face-to-face contact with medical professionals.

From virtual GP appointments to apps and wearable medical technology, people are being empowered to take charge of their health with the support of future-focused medical professionals.

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