Why aren’t more people using technology to help their patients?

Posted on 3 May 2016 (Permalink)

The NHS is at breaking point with demands for its services, while clinicians try to maintain as good a standard of care as possible. Could technology restore the balance, enabling more to be done by fewer staff? Patients can manage with less face-to-face contact from clinicians if they are provided with better information and prompts to follow agreed management plans.

Even when there seem to be clear indications for using technology, many clinicians have reservations about using it. If they aren’t very confident about their own understanding, they may feel patients might know more than they do about technology.  But why not? - you can’t be an expert at everything. Sharing knowledge between patient and clinician reduces the inequality of the partnership by empowering the patient.

It takes time to explain to patients about the technology, but by investing time early on, it can save much more time in the future, when patients are managing more independently. Clinicians need to trust their patients to keep to agreed management plans, which form the basis for safe remote monitoring.

The kind of excuses clinicians make are probably a reflection of their own uncertainty, which leads to information given to the patient about technology being unconvincing. Assumptions about patients’ lack of willingness to use computers and phones is not borne out by reality. People of all ages are using the internet for a range of activities, from shopping to sharing photos, or speaking to distant relatives.

Most patients would like more contact with their doctor or nurse, but this resource needs to be protected and reserved for situations which require their expertise. Patients must learn to seek support from peer groups, either in person or via social media, and become more self-reliant. Technology can provide better information via apps, text messages, or online videos. Once health professionals realise that this is the only way that our limited resources can function, they will see that, for most patients, to provide a good quality of care will involve technology in some form or other.

If patients are not using technology, clinicians must ask themselves why not, and question whether patients are being given the best sustainable care for their condition.