Last month during a presentation on eHealth I interviewed Celia Slagman, who knows everything about living with a brain injury. I asked her how the Internet helps her in coping with a brain injury, and her reply surprised the audience just as much as it had me earlier that week: "Online grocery shopping."
eHealth is all about using modern practical applications
"Gosh: what does that mean?" "For my weekly groceries, I order online and have it delivered to my home; I select and buy gifts for friends online," Celia continued:
"Shopping is very demanding for me. By shopping online, I save lots of time and energy that can be spent on other things that are more important to me". As she explained the challenges she endured in keeping up with her daily activities, and trying to balance her energy, Celia also pointed out how time-consuming health care services were for people with health issues. For example, they include frequent visits to healthcare providers, traveling back and forth, sitting for long periods of time in crowded waiting rooms, limited telephone access that is only available at awkward or unhandy hours of the day. These are all re-occurring challenges that people with serious health issues have to deal with on a regular basis, and take a lot of time and energy. "By making good use of the Internet, caregivers can provide better service to people without burdening them too much".
We shared several examples, including practical applications: a digital consultation, information exchange via the Internet, e-learning instead of courses and meetings, online scheduled appointments. In short, several modern services that patients and clients are already using for financial issues, booking holidays, doing their taxes or grocery shopping.
"We've only gotten started"
Digital applications provide new opportunities for healthcare, and there are high expectations. However, in practice there is a lot of resistance towards eHealth. Many Health Maintenance Organisations have little or no experience in developing and using digital services like e-consultation, making appointments online, using home care kits for thrombosis or chronic heart patients. The health care system is a complex field and it is difficult to implement changes within the system.
In the last 15 years of new developments within eHealth, there still have not been many changes made within the online basic services of health care. From an innovative perspective, we can only say "we've only gotten started".
Watch out for what patients are already doing online
Technological developments are moving as fast as the speed of light. Let's explore these developments, monitor them, encourage, and experiment with them. That is why it is great that over 2,000 international eHealth experts are going to exchange knowledge and share best practices during the eHealth Week 2016. But let's not forget that we still have to catch up with the helpful and user-friendly digital services that are already available. Let's work shoulder to shoulder and start using basic digital services. Healthcare should not be isolated from the rest of society. Listen to what patients are already doing online, especially with the things they consider important. Let health care providers and services learn from them and from what's already out there.
Liesbeth Meijnckens www.liesbethmeijnckens.nl is eHealth consultant. She is author of the book:Beter met eHealth in 60 minuten, which was published in Dutch in May 2016 by Haystack.
Thanks to Celia Slagman.