Even before the world was reeling under the pandemic, hospitals and patients faced a unique problem. It had to do with the continuity of the treatment. Patients with HIV or Cardiovascular diseases or other chronic ailments required continuous supervision from doctors. They had to follow a strict medical, nutritional, and exercise regimen to live a close-to-normal life. They were required to visit doctors intermittently to lead a healthy life. It was all a part of their treatment. However, several roadblocks such as unavailability of the doctors, long-distance travelling from the patient’s home to the hospital, lack of communication between the healthcare team and the patient led to a breakdown in treatment. There was little or no engagement between the hospitals and patients, which led to emergency readmissions of the patient and escalating costs for the hospital.
These kinds of roadblocks led to a steady emergence of digital patients and enabled hospitals to provide better medical care to the patients.
Digital patients are those who leverage technology to monitor their health condition and interact with healthcare specialists regularly to stay on top of their health condition.
Here are some characteristics that define them.
Digital patients are well-informed
Digital patients have access to a wide range of information online. They can easily read up about their symptoms with a click of the mouse before stepping into a clinic for consultation. According to a Nielsen study, 86% of patients conduct a health-related search before making a doctor’s appointment. While this helps the patients to understand their condition better, it could also mislead them if the sources are not authentic or if the symptoms point them to an incorrect diagnosis. It’s here that hospitals can step in to educate the patients. They can upload resources such as articles, latest research, videos, webinars, etc. on their portal so that the patients get access to the right information.
Digital patients are invested in their health
Gone are those days when patients were reactive and relied on the doctor’s words alone. Today’s digital patients are more aware and proactive in taking charge of their health. They research their condition and ask doctors questions related to it. They also seek support from online communities of people with similar conditions to make an informed decision. It is almost like a cultural shift where patients are equally involved in the decision-making process. It’s time that hospitals take note of this change and encourage patients to invest in their health. Rather than dismissing the patient’s queries, hospitals can offer patients access to authentic resources, so they have all the right information about their condition.
Digital patients are focused on improving their health
Remote patient monitoring has become a trend, especially after the pandemic led to hospitals limiting outpatient appointments. IoT in healthcare has become so important that it is poised to grow by a CAGR of 24.5% by 2026. It’s a result of patients taking conscious efforts to improve their health. Patients are using wearable devices such as smartwatches to track their movement and crucial parameters such as heart rate, pulse rate, and BP. They have also been using apps that nudge them to exercise and follow their medicine regime correctly. The conscious efforts of the patient should be taken as a cue by hospitals to improve their engagement. They can create mobile apps that enable patients to share real-time data with the healthcare specialist team. It can also have features to send notifications to the patients through push, SMS, or email reminding them of their next appointment or an upcoming test or even about refilling their stock of medicines. The objective is to create a frictionless experience for patients, so they are motivated to engage with their healthcare provider and adhere to their regimen strictly.
Digital patients prefer support even post-surgery
In critical cases such as cardiovascular surgery, patients will have to participate in a post-surgery rehabilitation programme to stay healthy. However, most patients are unable to complete the programme on time. There could be many reasons for it – distance, lack of time, lack of support, etc. That’s why digital patients prefer out-of-hospital care post-surgery. Hospitals can help patients with out-of-hospital care by leveraging technology. They can provide them with access to a mobile app through which they can directly interact with the patients and address all their queries. They can monitor their parameters regularly and ensure that the patient is adhering to the post-surgery regimen as prescribed.
Digital patients expect a personalised experience
Patients prefer to get treated by hospitals that provide them with personalised care. Personalised care also benefits the hospital as it can improve the patient’s outcome. To provide personalised care, hospitals can use digital technology to monitor the health of the patient regularly and modify their regimen wherever applicable to ensure that they lead a healthy life. They can leverage the patient’s data to personalise the experience – right from providing access to reliable information to reminding them of the upcoming tests, appointments, etc.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown both the hospitals and the patients that it is possible to engage using digital technologies. With digital technologies, patients were able to continue their treatment during the pandemic even without visiting the dispensary and doctors were able to monitor them remotely and ensure that they stayed healthy. This could be a good beginning for hospitals to test digital health technologies and make it a part of their treatment to ensure that patients get treatment at the right time and to avoid unnecessary readmissions.