The healthcare field is not immune to the influence of technology. The multi-billion dollar healthcare industry relies on technology to function day in and day out. The Federal government has dumped several billions of dollars into the hands on private companies and nonprofit organizations to develop and create technologies focused on healthcare issues – some successful, others not so much. From electronic charting, lab work, patient profiles, X-Rays, CT Scan, MRIs, and robotic surgical equipment, healthcare has bridged a new dimension thanks to technology. This blog focuses on online resources dedicated to health advancement and patient wellness.
WebMD is a testament to what tech has done for patients and the healthcare field. WebMD is a web-based system designed to educate individuals to the signs and symptoms of ailments that they may be suffering from or feeling. It provides significant information on dietary issues, diseases, parenting, pregnancy, drugs, supplements, wellness tips, and a host of health related factors. The website hosts a tremendous amount of useful information and is a foundation of years of medical knowledge. Its pure intention is to be a point of reference for patients to understand and research specific individual concerns, not specifically for diagnostic use and should not replace the consultation of a physician. Its purpose is not to substitute the care of a physician. I am afraid this may be the case. Patients continue to self-diagnosis without the intervention of a physician. What may be causing this trend? Loss of health care coverage, loss of income, loss of job, apprehension, denial, and fear are a few reasons for the diminished visits to a physician.
The fallouts of this trend are troubling. First, patients perform self-diagnosis that may not account for subtle signs that only a qualified physician may notice. Individuals are compromising their own health and wellness in the name of saving dollars. By delaying a visit to a doctor, individuals cost the healthcare industry more in the long-term because preventive health measures is always cheaper than emergency medicine. Second, relying on online resources strains the patient-doctor relationship. Many would state that they currently receive, or have received, inferior care from their physician. This of course is a subjective notion and often results in individuals looking for other venues to have their questions answered. On the opposite, patients may offend doctors. If a patient is confident of their symptoms and have made a self-diagnosis, they may discount a physician’s advice and question his/her decision. Lastly, we are replacing the human interaction and tacit knowledge held by a doctor for words on a computer screen. Many are seeing more value in learning about their medical conditions through friends, experience, web searches, and family history. This is the most detrimental effect of technology on health care. Displacing ourselves from the care of a doctor has drastic consequence, personally and industry wide.
I am by no means questioning the validity and necessity of WebMD. At some point, we may even question the validity and necessity of some doctors. I applaud resources such as WebMD, CDC, and NIH for providing leading information and knowledge regarding health issues plaguing our sick country. I have serious concern when we begin replacing the care of a physician with words on a computer screen.