Modern technology is rapidly facilitating the development of digital health concepts. Digital health involves the interaction of digital technologies with traditional healthcare delivery and maintenance. Digital medicine is a part of the digital health landscape, specifically concerning the use of ingestible sensors with prescription medication. Digital medicine technology is intended to communicate data to mobile and web applications. The data collected generally provides information about actual doses and when they are taken, providing insight into patient adherence to prescriptions and treatment plans. In this article, Dr. Joel Arun Sursas describes some of the pitfalls of digital medicine as the technology works to support traditional medical practice.
1. Studies to Properly Establish Efficacy Will Take Time
Validating the data and collection methods used by digital medicine is a time-consuming process and requires extensive testing to determine efficacy and accuracy. Until meaningful and trusted studies are completed, digital medicine will struggle to find widespread acceptance. Many of the studies and evaluations currently in the literature have dealt with limited populations or have been statistically flawed in other ways. In addition to controlled trials and studies, established governmental databases and analytical applications should be able to help evaluate which types of digital medicines are safe and perform adequately for intended populations.
2. Stronger Networks Between Developers, Tech Engineers, and Medical Practitioners Is Needed
There is a long-standing barrier between practicing doctors and technology developers, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Doctors are traditionally resistant to interference with their professional assessment of patients’ healthcare needs and face-to-face diagnosis and treatment of conditions. The technology industry has also been less than perfect over the years in involving practitioners in the development and implementation process. Modern technology developers are learning useful methods for overcoming the communication gap with doctors and are recognizing the benefits of bringing physicians into the development of sensors and especially data assessment applications.
3. Ethical Issues Should Be Carefully Addressed
There are potential ethical issues involved with collecting and sharing patient information, especially sensitive information involving prescriptions and patient behaviors. Dissemination of individual or group patient information beyond the doctor-patient level brings many privacy regulations and ethical standards into play. While individual doctors may obtain valuable information about individual patient adherence, digital medicine developers must ensure that patients provide informed consent to the use of their data. Obtaining valid consent must go hand in hand with strict compliance with all state and federal regulations regarding collecting, storing, using, and disseminating otherwise confidential patient information.
About Dr. Joel Arun Sursas:
Dr. Joel Arun Sursas is a Medical Doctor and Health Informatician who is motivated to solve administrative problems in healthcare. His primary focus is on developing technological advances between doctors and engineers to improve patient outcomes through improved monitoring while protecting patient privacy. His interest in the field of Medical Informatics emerged when he began working as a Project Officer for PACES — the Patient Care Enhancement System for Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). At the SAF, Dr. Sursas’s collaborative efforts with other doctors and engineers facilitated the design and implementation of the largest Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system in Singapore, serving 53 medical centers.
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