Getting clinicians involved in using new methods of delivering healthcare through simple technology such as Skype, text messaging through Flo, apps and social media is a challenge which my team understand only too well, having worked for some time now in this field.
This simple technology is all about communication. It is giving patients more information, so that they can look after themselves better, while having their usual medical provision underpinning the process. This is a challenge for many clinicians, who are used to the situation where they are the source of all information and knowledge, and the patient is dependent on them for direction. It is uncomfortable to make the change to give the patient sufficient information that they can manage themselves, and then trust them to cope with less direct intervention. It does mean selection of people for whom this technology will be suitable. Some patients will not have the mental capacity to manage on their own. But the excuse that patients are too old, or cannot manage modern technology is probably more indicative of clinicians’ ageism or their own lack of confidence in the use of technology.
Many people in the community of all ages are increasingly using smartphones, Skypeing relatives abroad, buying groceries through supermarket websites or getting bargains on eBay. Elderly people may not text their friends – that is not how they communicate – but a 93 year old patient with heart failure is now very happily sitting at home, having learned how to send and receive text messages, as this enabled her to be discharged from hospital early last month.
Adopting Facebook is sometimes something that clinicians are reluctant to do, because they are wary of being inundated with complaints. Our experience has been much more positive, with patients supporting their clinicians, and using ‘closed’ groups for Patient Participation Groups, weight management and MS, with others planned for COPD and asthma.
So the future is exciting, as these varied types of communication are used to enable patients to manage their conditions better and more conveniently.