Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Is online healthcare at a tipping point in 2010?

Online healthcare is becoming more accepted by both patients and doctors, and is, I believe, at a tipping point in 2010. By 2015 online communication between patients and doctors and the routine use of multimedia information will be the norm.

Patients will still be seen in person but our improved capacity to communicate electronically is, as Clayton Christensen has put it, a "disruptive innovation" that will revolutionize healthcare delivery. Providers will be routinely using these new technologies, such as email, telemedicine, electronic records, social networks and wireless mobile applications with patients. This will make healthcare more affordable, accessible and efficient.

These changes will be supplemented and strengthened by the availability of multimedia data. Electronic clinical information will be more freely available than today for both patients and doctors to review, comment on, pass to others for second opinions, and compare with clinical databases and disease registries. This data will be in multiple electronic formats - numeric, text-based, audio, digitized still pictures, video, radiologic, genomic and 3D streams. It will include data emanating from multiple medical monitoring and diagnostic devices as well as from ubiquitously available consumer devices such as cell phones. Patients and physicians will have to learn to navigate a "sea" of data, using new techniques to evaluate and analyze the relative importance of specific data points and elements of clinical information.

These two changes will mean that by 2015 the relationship that many patients have with their doctors will have expanded beyond the in-person interaction of today, and will increasingly occur literally anytime, anywhere in both online and in-person environments.

Peter Yellowlees is the author of "Your health in the information age - how you and your doctor can use the internet to work together."