Health Care and Future of Internet

What do you expect from the future web in context of health care? Do you use Internet to assist your health care?

Trying to answer these questions I made some analysis of existing points of view. I would like to share the results.

There is a plenty of existing health care and tracking resources. But mostly they are only providing some means for information retrieval, tools for health/diet tracking, shopping – utilizing only the basic capabilities Internet possesses.

At the same time survey “Future of the Internet” conducted in 2005 by Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that experts expect the radical changes in health care due to Internet in near future.

The main points claimed can be summarized as following:

In 10 years, the increasing use of online medical resources will yield substantial improvement in many of the pervasive problems now facing health care — including rising health care costs, poor customer service, the high prevalence of medical mistakes, malpractice concerns, and lack of access to medical care for many Americans.

Well, probably it won’t completely solve major problems such as lack of access to medical care and Medicare debt problems (you can read more within Wikipedia article on Medicare.)

But still it can be a significant benefit to the society if applied properly.

Here is the top 10 list of improvements:

  1. Interconnection between doctors and patients.
    Technically it is already possible to setup a permanent communication system between doctors and patients. The goal of such system is in providing easy access to qualified and personalized medical consultation.The future is in personalization. We all want to be treated in a special way. Don’t we?
  2. Decision support.
    Malpractice and various medical mistakes are a big source of trouble. Some of the possible mistakes can certainly be prevented by decision support systems. This can save lives.
  3. Record management.
    Well, I think, you know what it is all about. Sadly, current management practices are somewhat inconceivable. While automation is just a part of a game, it still can bring a fresh air of improvement.
  4. Integrated shopping.
    The truth is when I’m not sure about drug I see in e-shop/drugstore I want to get advise directly from a trusted personal doctor. Technology can make it a reality.
  5. Smooth health tracking.
    Existing health tracking systems imho are not smooth. I mean they require certain actions that sometimes we are too lazy to take.Meanwhile, I can easily imagine the future tracking systems – very small, consuming almost no energy, requiring almost no action, connected to the network, so your doctor can inspect your health remotely.
  6. Medical data sharing across the Globe.
    Quite important for travelers – if you are sick, you need to get treatment according to your medical card, not the average treatment. Quite important for remote communities and far-flung regions – to have persistent access to global centralized knowledge base.
  7. International standardization.
    Once a decision to invent a global Internet-based health care system will be made, there will be a demand for international standardization. It seems to be reasonable within the globalization framework.Of course it is a double-edged sword, but it obviously has some advantages, especially for developing countries, I think.
  8. Hospital automation.
    Mobile robots are considered as one of biggest changes the world will face in a coming decade. And hospital automation is one of major application areas for mobile robotics. There are recently some launches in this field (see article on Robotics Trends for detail.)Robots connected to the network are the next step. It will allow not only automate supply chain automation, but laboratory management, building monitoring, the long-term and short-term resource allocation planning and much more.
  9. Self-education resources.
    Data is already here. Frankly, we are overwhelmed with data. But we often don’t have a means to extract relevant information from this data.Searching for health related terms we are probably expecting to see another ugly belly fat loss ad and other distractions (distraction indeed is quite serious issue nowadays, I will write about it in upcoming article “How to Overcome Distraction” – subscribe if you wish to be in touch).
    There is strong demand in a system that will satisfy the major requirements: it should be easy to use and trustworthy.
  10. Add the benefit you see for yourself.
    Feel free to join the discussion in comments

The benefits are quite positive. But of course there are significant obstacles for the new technologies to be introduced: insurance companies and overall bureaucracy, privacy risks, bad data producing even worse results, lack of investments etc.

After all, the major problem is formulated in the name “paid medical service”. It is paid, so – regardless of the technologies – there always will be people who need medication but can not afford it.

At the same time United Nations convention states:

The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.

(Check out “The right to the highest attainable standard of health” at UN Human Rights website if you don’t believe me.)

Here we have some divergence, don’t we?

For further information consider reading articles: The Future of the Internet in Health Care, Healthcare and the Internet, Healthcare on the Internet and above mentioned report.

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