Blame it on rising stress levels, erratic lifestyles, or anything else you can think of, but there is no getting away from the fact that heart health is causing much concern for people across the globe. Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) are affecting young and old and are the number one cause of deaths – approximately 17.5 million people died from CVD (i.e. 31% of all global deaths) in 2012. Such striking figures explain why it is all the more necessary to become aware of the reality and start taking productive steps towards countering the risk factors.
Access to Health Data
Thankfully, with the advent of technology, it can be easy to at least have access to one’s health data. To think of it, it is actually the biggest benefit to be gained from technology, especially digitisation. Digital health technologies allow a person to stay informed of vital stats and then if need be, seek medical assistance. For instance, there is Mobile Health or mHealth as it is popularly known. It involves making use of mobile communication devices to stay informed of any health changes occurring in the body. One can use mobile apps to keep a track of dietary habits, sleep patterns, and fitness levels. As more and more people opt for better Internet connectivity through 3G and 4G networks and the reach of smartphones expands further, the reach of mHealth or rather digital health is rapidly increasing.
Unlike the typical perception of technology being too complicated, several of these health technology apps are simple to navigate. There is the largely popular Fitbit to track fitness progress, smart watches which can be paired with heart monitors, weighing scales, and other Bluetooth-enabled devices for tracking health data, and finally the mobile text messaging interventions (TMIs). Such wearable technology is proving to be highly resourceful for bettering the heart health of millions of people. So much so, that according to the World Economic Forum by 2022, one in every 10 people will be wearing clothes connected to the Internet or the ‘wearable Internet. This has to mean that digitising the health world is feasible.
Healthcare has become participatory
How is then digital technology really helpful?
- First, there is real-time data available and it can be corroborated with a person’s previous health records. Thus, understanding why a health scare might have occurred is quicker for a doctor or at other times, preventive measures can already be employed.
- Digital technology allows the doctors to gather data, diagnose, identify possible lacunae, etc. even before the patient arrives at the hospital. So there is a considerable saving of precious time.
- Some medical practitioners use tablets to track and share data with other teams when working on an emergency. Apart from doctors, even for say a common man, the technologies available in the market can make understanding the readings/ statistics undemanding. As a result, health management can become possible even at home, making the person take a step towards dealing with CVD a little sooner.
- Since the data is very specific to a particular patient, it assists the healthcare practitioners to provide an accurate diagnosis. It then further implies receiving personalised treatments based on the individual health records.
Remote Health Monitoring
Remote Patient Monitoring or RPM includes communication gadgets as well as tools for measuring medications such as glucose monitoring, oxygen saturation measurements, etc. Deploying RPM ensures that patients can be closely watched for their health in the comfortable confines of their home. These tools check for all the vital parameters without bothering or being too obtrusive and thus, help in creating a stress-free environment. Ideally, RPM directly delivers actionable data to the medical practitioners who can then alter the treatment according to the reports they keep on receiving. Especially in the case of CVD, RPM has proved to be highly successful for patients suffering from congestive heart failure and those with implanted cardiac rhythm devices.
Unlike cancer, genomics has not progressed much for CVD. However, the genome is an important factor when considering treatment for a patient suffering from CVD. Thanks to the digital means of gathering individual health information, doctors can now consider providing specific treatment depending on pathology, raw digital data sets from genomics, imaging, etc. Then there is also Artificial Intelligence or AI which, when combined with genomics, can greatly help in preventing and treating CVD. Since CVD can be connected to a person’s lifestyle, it is a huge boon to be able to decide on a personlised treatment plan based on genomics.
Digital health technology makes life simpler and more convenient. It can make the healthcare sector efficient and effective, reaching out to a vast number of people simultaneously. This sector is not just limited to doctors and patients but also includes pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and the medical devices manufacturing companies. But most importantly, it gives an individual the option to make informed choices. Especially for CVD, it is bound to play a major role in the area of prevention. It is for the best then that digital health technologies need to be more explored and exploited to ensure a healthy heart.