Healthcare as a digital industry – looking into the future

Healthcare as a digital industry - looking into the future(Ping! Zine Web Tech Magazine) – The inexorable rise of digital technology has revolutionized the way that organizations do business. An online presence is now essential in the marketplace, with high-speed deliveries allowing people to access goods and services without ever having to leave home.

For the healthcare industry, this move to a digital marketplace offers challenges but also real opportunities for health professionals to keep both current and potential patients engaged and informed about their own healthcare.

Information overload?

The speed at which online technology has advanced, and is continuing to do so, has meant that healthcare providers, and indeed the whole medical industry, has had to change the way it communicates with those needing its services. People are demanding information that is accurate, as well as quick and easy to access. Although many seniors have embraced online technology, it is the younger generation, who not only know how to use digital technology but are also going to live longer than previous generations, that must be catered for.

There is already a vast amount of information out there, and it can sometimes feel that there is an information overload. Search engines are optimized to ensure that relevant results relating to, for example, a specific medical condition or the availability of particular drugs with or without a prescription, are instantly available. Young people, in particular can be impatient, so if a healthcare website is slow to load due to bandwidth problems or looks unattractive with huge amounts of poorly set out text, they are liable to seek products and services elsewhere.

The rise of self-help

Healthcare is under constant pressure as the population ages and the younger population increases. Hospitals and clinics, specialist services and all the support teams that make the system work, are all stretched to their limits. One of the best uses of the digital marketplace for the healthcare industry is to encourage patients to help themselves with their own healthcare.

It has been said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but arguably no knowledge at all is even more dangerous. Doctors and other health professionals will be used to patients arriving with some Internet information, confident that they know exactly what is wrong with them. In many cases, doctors may have to gently correct the patient as symptoms can be contradictory, but at least it’s a start to get people to take more responsibility for their own health.

Access and communication

One of the problems faced in the digital marketplace is that not everyone has access to it, or at least instant access from a home computer. Although the medical and healthcare industries have worked to embrace and roll out new ways for patients to interface with them, there are many who are unable to take advantage of the technology, perhaps through having a low income or being seniors who have not yet embraced the digital world. These patients will rely on the traditional means of accessing healthcare, but it is in the industry’s interest to encourage accessibility and digital communication.

The use of email to communicate is now standard practice in business, and as healthcare professionals continue to examine the best ways of getting personal information to their patients, they should be able to cut down on the amount of physical time they need to spend making diagnoses and offering treatments. Although email is obviously not a substitute for face-to-face time, it does help patients to take charge, where possible, of their own health needs.

Resource rich

The Internet abounds with medical and healthcare resources. Many of these have been community-led initiatives – essential for getting people involved and driving the digital agenda for healthcare. The problem with some of these initiatives is that the information given may be inaccurate or cause concern when there is no need. Self-help will always have these issues so the more highly professional websites that are developed; the easier it will be for people to make choices.

Ecommerce opportunities

Ecommerce systems have opened up a world where it is quick and easy to find and buy pharmaceutical products, particularly helping people in rural areas who may find it hard to access a pharmacy. Opportunities for health professionals to market their services are ideal for the digital marketplace, enabling them to attract new customers and build their businesses. By making websites easy to search for, and then easy to navigate once found, the industry is opening the door for customers to find the exact services or products they need.