Are patients and physicians really open to eHealth?

Article posted on: 11 December 2015

Amongst the general public, eHealth is still an unfamiliar term but it is most definitely not a new innovation within the medical world. Despite the term being coined almost 20 years ago it is only in recent years that  more mainstream apps and medical devices have brought it closer to people’s everyday lives. It is a whole new world with tremendous possibilities, a fact that will be made abundantly clear during the eHealth Week 2016. More and more patients and physicians are making use of various forms of eHealth to feel more empowered. However, this change is very slow in coming, with some reluctance even. Why is that? Are patients and physicians just not open to it? Do they not see the advantages?

No warm welcome

In 2012 and 2013 I worked on a project by Digitale Zorggids. Its objective was to investigate eHealth and its popularity. What I realised was that neither patients nor physicians welcomed the introduction of eHealth with open arms. Frankly, I was quite apprehensive myself at first. After all, our body is precious, and must be treated with utmost care. When there is something wrong with it we want to go to “our” physician, so he or she can fix the problem. This is what we have done for as long as we can remember – we’ve had someone close to us, take care of us.  The very idea of using a computer for your health instead of personal face to face contact is still strange. And yet, while I appreciate the comfort of a physician’s words, I have also learned from all my testing these past few years that eHealth has a great many advantages.

Improve the quality of life

Although physicians are the ones we trust to handle our medical problems, there is one person even more qualified to take care for our bodies and that person is…ourselves!  EHealth can enable a person to handle small physical problems by providing instructions or suggestions on a proper course of action. For people suffering from serious conditions eHealth can even help improve the quality of life. This can be as simple as wearing a small device, that alerts family caregivers when they need help. This solution can help people with serious disabilities or the elderly to remain self-sufficient for far longer. Another example is patients preparing for the appointment with their physician by measuring things at home, so less appointment are necessary. For physicians, eHealth can be valuable as well. It can help lighten their workload or even replace certain actions. This way a physician can have more time for patients who do need physical help.

Are you still reluctant?

Fortunately, more and more people are realising these advantages, but we are still hesitant when it comes to eHealth. We are accustomed to the old system and it is hard to let go of what you know and try something different. Another reason is that people are a little afraid to use eHealth as they lack the expertise of a physician. Sometimes it can be very comforting to place your trust in the experts in the field. These are definitely important reasons, but they do not take anything away from the advantages of eHealth. Also should we not see eHealth as a replacement, but as a compliment to physicians and their traditional role? And in the end, our physicians are still there to help us when we need them.

@dzg_cindy

@eHealthWeekEU

Cindy Oudshoorn
Author: 
Cindy Oudshoorn, eHealth expert blogger (Digitalezorggida.nl), The Netherlands.