Chosen Article: The digitally engaged patient: Self-monitoring and self-care in the digital health era by Deborah Lupton
Digital technologies have made it to each and every aspect of our daily lives, so it’s not surprising that healthcare industries are opting for self-monitoring and self- care which are dependent on digital technologies. There is an increasing shift from face to face patient-doctor visits to ‘e-visits’, consultations via Skype, e-prescriptions, and self-monitoring. In the article, Dr. Lupton describes different types of technologies used in the field of healthcare, these include digitalized health information systems such as wearable wireless digital devices, implanted biosensors, digital imaging, genomic sequencing data, medical consultation via digital media, and forums or other technologies which work as an information and interaction tool. (Lupton, 2013).
Dr. Lupton also discusses advantages and disadvantages of these technologies. On one hand, these technologies can provide an efficient way to seek medical care, aid those struggling with disability or diseases, and help those who wish to self-manage their chronic illnesses via monitoring technology. For example, a study by Russel-Minda et. al. suggests that digital technologies such as self-monitoring can be a very effective tool in managing type-1 diabetes. On the other hand, these technologies can prove to be overwhelming for some who prefer face to face visits with a doctor over adapting to new technologies (Lupton, 2013). Lupton explains that nature of self-surveillance can give a rise to individuals failing to follow the instructions from healthcare professionals, consequently, not being able to follow through their required course of treatment. Often, people find these technologies excessively confronting and a constant reminder of their illnesses, making patients vulnerable to depressions (Lupton, 2013).
The author Mary Chayko describes that whenever we post anything online or just by sending a text-message, we leave a digital footprint (Chayko, 2016). The digital health monitoring technologies and forums where we can get advice from doctors, or when we indulge in discussion with other patients, we are leaving a digital footprint. This may or may not negatively impact one’s life, but it can definitely leave information about their medical history, which ideally should be protected and private. The insurance companies may able to gather health data of people found through forums or health monitoring apps and using it against them.
There are many advantages and disadvantages of self-monitoring and self-care digital healthcare technologies. For some, it may work as a motivation to better themselves, improve their health, track their illnesses and stats, give them the flexibility of not visiting the clinic and still getting the required treatment and help them understand how their body is responding to a certain medicine. For others, it may be an obstacle, which hinders their ability to get more personal medical attention, or the inability to adapt to new technologies can lead to not being able to take its advantage to the fullest capability.
Many big telecommunication companies are continually developing teleconferencing devices which allow doctors and surgeons to be present through video call for consultation or surgeries, giving a ‘real face to face’ experience. This article reminded me of an incident when United Healthcare started the free online consultation via video call, and I could get a medical consultation when the storms had closed down transportation in most of the east coast cities. Technology will be keep developing and more tools will be available to track and monitor health. However, we should be able to maintain the balance and choose the right mode of communication with health care professionals for our needs.
Chayko, M. (n.d.). Superconnected: The Internet, digital media, and techno-social life.
Lupton, D. (2013). The digitally engaged patient: Self-monitoring and self-care in the digital health era. Soc Theory Health Social Theory & Health, 11(3), 256-270. doi:10.1057/sth.2013.10
Russell-Minda, E., Jutai, J., Speechley, M., Bradley, K., Chudyk, A., & Petrella, R. (2009). Health Technologies for Monitoring and Managing Diabetes: A Systematic Review. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 3(6), 1460-1471. doi:10.1177/193229680900300628