E-health is much more than online prescriptions

E-health is much more than online prescriptions

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From digital self-care through virtual doctor appointments to remote examinations. E-health offers a wide range of possibilities. According to experts, the Internet and telemedicine can be used at any stage of treatment – technology is not a barrier these days. However, how do we develop the potential of remote solutions in order for them to be effective, useful and safe for the patient? What is the priority for medical service providers today? What changes can we expect in the coming years?

Today, e-health is expanding in three key areas. Firstly in the field of telemedicine and digitisation of services, which mostly includes remote consultations and monitoring of health parameters. Secondly, in the area of ​​health prevention, which allows patients to manage their health independently. Thirdly, medical data analytics, including the so-called Big Data, with the help of advanced tools and artificial intelligence (AI), ensuring that the obtained conclusions are not only accurate, but also useful.

Interactions between patients and doctors, or a healthcare system, which, for example, involve measuring health parameters, providing medical advice, or sending information, are all part of telemedicine. However, this is not the only way to provide medical help online. A good example of this is the Medicover.pl portal, where patients can access reliable information about health and medical issues and find answers to their questions. That is why e-health is a much broader concept.

Dr Piotr Soszyński, Medical Systems Director at Medicover Poland, and an expert member of a team responsible for drafting an e-health strategy commissioned by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Digitisation

Telemedicine’s potential is becoming increasingly significant. Today, it is applicable at every stage of health management: from prevention, through diagnosis and diagnostics, to health monitoring and treatment.

It is clear from previous experiences of Medicover Polska that diagnostic solutions, such as symptom checker, based on artificial intelligence, may be very effective. These days their preliminary assessments prove accurate in about 70-80 percent of cases, and can provide useful guidance to patients, for example by recommending the type of specialist they should see for their particular health problem. The self-learning mechanism will improve the effectiveness of these solutions as they continue to be used.

Solutions such as the symptom checker can be particularly useful for diseases whose initial symptoms are unclear and often underestimated by patients.

The role of telemedicine in the treatment process

The growth of telemedicine services may be particularly important for chronic diseases, where regular contact with the doctor and supervision give much better results than sporadic visits. Telemedicine enables continuous supervision of key parameters. In the case of diabetes, it will involve measuring glucose, while in people with hypertension - measuring blood pressure. Currently, the majority of chronically ill patients are asked to systematically measure and record their results in a diary.

Imagine this process taking place differently. The measurement is carried out with the use of a device (e.g. a glucometer, blood pressure monitor, or a scale), linked with a smartphone. The data are transmitted in real-time to the system, which then analyses them and, if necessary, warns the patient by making recommendations (for example regarding drug dosing), or reminding the patient of previous recommendations.

Dr Piotr Soszyński

What ahead of us next year?

Over 500,000 remote medical advice have been dispatched at Medicover Polska since the launch of the Telemedicine Platform. Today, telemedicine services are used by a dozen or so percent of patients per year.

Our analysis shows that as much as 25 percent of appointments at medical centres could instead be provided via telemedicine services. This mainly involves visits for repeat prescriptions, issuing referrals, and discussing test results. Thus we hope that increasingly more patients will choose to use remote services.

Dr Piotr Soszyński

Telemonitoring may gain more importance next year at Medicover Polska. Currently a pilot implementation of a remote ECG holter and a tele-CTG, which are devices for the continuous remote monitoring of foetal health, is underway. Another area with seemingly great potential is teledermatology, which assesses skin lesions using standardised images transmitted by a device, like a smartphone.

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