Monday, September 26, 2011

Self Service Healthcare is Thriving

 When I was growing up we lived in various remote locations overseas where hospitals and doctor's offices were scarce.  When my brother or I got sick or had a health problem, my mother would get out a large book of symptoms she had that also contained advice on recommended treatments. For most ailments, she provided the treatments or care we needed. Self care was the norm. Only if a bone was broken or the pain was too much did we go to the hospital or seek out a doctor. When I became a parent and had kids, I received an updated version of the book of symptoms from my mother and we continued the tradition of self care. Although, I did add a few books to my repertoire having to do with child care and prescription information and we did visit the doctor's office with a bit more frequency. 

Today, my kids are grown and the tradition of self care continues, though the tools have changed greatly. Today there are numerous web sites on the Internet that have more detailed and reliable information on symptoms, prescriptions, and much more.  They now have access to web sites that help find a doctor or healthcare facility and rate their quality of care.  Online health education materials are readily available to them. They now have access to personal health record (PHR) systems that can be used to record, store, and track vaccinations, prescriptions, and other healthcare events and treatments received.  Social health networking sites for patients with cancer, AIDS, or other harmful diseases now exist. Some healthcare organizations are even experimenting with self scheduled appointment and secure email to connect with your personal physician.  

In other words, self care is thriving. Using a PC, laptop, or smartphone patients can now access a host of healthcare information and services online from anywhere they might be. Using any one of these devices, they have ready access to online health information about symptoms, drugs, treatment options, healthcare facilities, and much more. In addition to PHR systems, mobile apps tailored to your particular health situation or wellness objectives abound. Free open source software tools exist to help predict longevity, assess susceptibility to strokes or heart attack. In addition to health educational materials, there are now health egames that make learning more enjoyable for patients of all ages. Prescription refills can be done online and the medication will be delivered to your home. New self care, self education, self examination, and self treatment are emerging in ever greater frequency.

What's next in the world of self care? How about wearable body sensors that monitor your health and transfer the data wirelessly to your PHR system. Implantable devices are now on the market that not only monitor your body, but also dispense medication as needed. These devices will also interface to your PHR and even to your hospital or health care provider's electronic health record (EHR) systems. In addition to secure email exchange with your provider, when do you think we will start to see home telehealth appointments using Skype become more common? It's coming. What about self reporting diseases or conditions to public health systems? What other self examination and self treatment solutions will we see next? I submit that self care is alive, thriving, and growing.

Tell us about some of the innovative self care, self examination, self monitoring, self treatment, or other self service healthcare solutions you are using. 

Consumers are projected to spend over $1 trillion through self-service kiosks by 2011, according to IHL Research, which affirms a 2007 study by IBM that showed consumers becoming more and more comfortable with self-service as a way to access additional resources when it is convenient for them.
  • Eighty-one percent of consumers indicated their reasons for choosing to use self-service technology over human interaction is that it allowed them to access information and services outside of normal business hours.
  • Sixty-nine percent said they expect more and more businesses to offer a self-service option.
  • Fifty-two percent revealed they are very comfortable using self-service technology, with roughly 50 percent indicating their usage of self-service devices had gone up during the past year.
  • Almost half of consumers would use self-service technology in lieu of human interaction to get more personal information such as accessing human resources or benefits information at work (45 percent) and checking in and reviewing medical history at a doctor's office (40 percent).
  • More than 33 percent of consumers said they would like additional resources available to them while they shop.

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