Guest post: The endless opportunities of digital health and care
The technical possibilities for digital health nowadays seem endless. This did not in the least become apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic when patients had the possibility to have digital meetings with their healthcare providers instead of meeting with them in person. There are also many initiatives going on to test different applications making use of data collected via patients’ smartphones, smartwatches or other wearable devices such as heart rate monitors, glucose reading monitors, or small devices to measure lung function. These data can then be shared with healthcare professionals. These applications make it possible for doctors to regularly monitor their patients and quickly adjust treatments if needed. It also provides patients with the possibility to quickly adapt in case their health deteriorates. Is digital health really the future? How can this be implemented and be of benefit to both patients and healthcare? Are there any pitfalls?
We believe that patient involvement in the development of digital healthcare applications is essential. For example, Amazona is a partner in the REBECCA project providing the breast cancer patient perspective in the development of a platform that will collect Real-World Data to improve breast cancer care. REBECCA will collect data from patients’ smartphones and wearables, including data on physical activity, social media behaviour and perceived health. As this relies heavily on the patients’ willingness to share their personal data, patient input in all stages of the system development is crucial. In order to collect patients’ feedback in a structured way, we developed questionnaires, which were sent out to our members, and organised workshops with smaller groups of patients. These activities have provided us with many interesting and important viewpoints that will now be used in the further development of the REBECCA system.
Imagine living in a time where health data can be collected and made available to me by technology which enables me to have continuous control over my own health. Then imagine the possibility of also sharing this health data with healthcare professionals so that they can get an even better overall picture of me as a person and as a patient. This gives healthcare a better basis when deciding on the best possible individual treatment for me. It is a huge reassurance to know that the information collected and provided by my app is produced with AI technology that gives me and the healthcare the best possible substantiated health assessment. Welcome to the future!
Anita Wanngren, Project Chairwoman at Amazona
Digital health provides endless opportunities. However, for it to be meaningful and successful, it is essential that the healthcare professionals are included in the development of the systems, and are provided with sufficient resources to handle all incoming data from patients’ wearables in an efficient way. As it is now, the administrative burden of healthcare professionals is extremely high, and the question is whether they are able to meet the demands of digital transformation.
Digital health can mean the collection of a large amount of private data from patients’ smartphones and wearables which is then transferred to their healthcare providers. One major downside of this is that there is a big risk of intruding on patients’ privacy and integrity. The development of digital health has to mean the parallel development of secure data transfer systems ensuring the patients’ privacy. It is also important that patients can keep control of which data they share and when. Only the data that is necessary for their care should be transferred, and nothing else.
This blog post was developed by Breast Cancer Society Amazona, REBECCA Consortium partner, as a contribution to the European Week Against Cancer 2022 campaign. Amazona is a non-profit association based in Stockholm, committed to supporting those who suffer from breast cancer as well as their close relatives, and to spreading knowledge about breast cancer and the importance of an early diagnosis.