It’s reasonable to feel reluctant about change when it comes down to the loss of something familiar and the increasing use of technology. But when Ezekiel Emanuel writes about the rapid growth of digital medicine he is not mourning the loss of a way of life he was trained for as a physician. He is looking forward and envisaging better care at lower cost, and that is an important topic for us all.
For him, and for us as well, ‘the emergence of digital medicine and the closure of hospitals’ is about progress, and specifically new and improved ways of keeping us healthy and offering treatment of many kinds. Many of us have heard about wearable devices like wristbands that monitor our heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar and more. And if some of these gadgets are expensive now, we know that these kinds of smart devices are certain to get cheaper fast.
What does a wrist band have to do with a building, like a hospital? More than we might think. We are going to have smaller, portable technologies that monitor our life signs and make it possible for us to be looked after and treated more easily and effectively while we go about our busy lives. And that means we are not going to need to go to a clinic or Emergency Room or stay in a hospital as much.
We all want to be happy and healthy and we want the same for the people we love. And when there is a challenge—whether it is for a moment or a lifetime—we usually think about a special place where we can get help—the Doctor’s office, the clinic, the community hospital. What the changing health care system means is that we will get the help and support we need in new and different ways. Already people are getting assistance managing depression and anxiety using web based tools. This doesn’t have to replace a therapist who is a trusted partner in learning ways to cope but may be very useful as an additional resource.
These changes will benefit our society in terms of expense, but the real payoff will be in making health part of our everyday lives. ‘Digital medicine’ is not an easy phrase to love, but that will change as these devices make it easier for us all to stay healthy. That’s enough to make us all champions of change.