Healthcare organizations, including hospitals, dispensaries, nursing homes, clinics, and physicians’ offices, used to operate using bulky medical records in terms of paper records. However, the emergence of the internet benefited the medical industry in one way or another. As Alotaibi et al. (1173) note in their work, the internet came due to technological progress, legal requirements, and accountability. Akindele (27) points out that the internet was introduced in the healthcare sector to reduce medical errors. In their report, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) noted that “To err is human” and later called for the implementation of new medical technologies to reduce medical errors (Y Alotaibi et al., 1173). As Akindele (29) notes in his work, these technologies were also used as a first key step towards transforming and changing the healthcare environment to attain better and safer care. Internet technologies largely benefit the healthcare sector in patient record keeping and billing, effective assessments and diagnosis, effective doctor-patient relationship, disease management, and follow-ups.
Firstly, the internet has become a significant enabler of consumer health. Consumer health is a set of undertakings that offer patients a more significant role in their health. Consumer health engages patients’ participation where they are given a chance in the development of their assessment tools of health risk and chronic conditions’ management, delivery of care, and home-based monitoring (B Abaidoo et al., 1). Patients are also given a chance to express their views and feelings concerning various treatment methods (S Vahdat et al. e12454). When patients are recognized as experts in their medical issues assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, they tend to improve their treatment adherence, and such recognition also improves their health outcomes. It can also reduce unplanned hospital visits since there is an adherence to treatment and medication.
The internet also helps in effective patient assessments and diagnosis. According to Gilmour et al. (1), the internet allows the physician to gain rapid access to the patient’s past and present records that aid in effective diagnosis of health conditions. Nowadays, the internet is making patient records, practice guidelines, and examination room test results accessible to the physician that helps in diagnosis. By combining multiple clinical data types from the electronic health records (EHR), physicians easily detect chronically ill patients. Stanhope et al. (1) note that the internet is also resulting in more patient-centered care. Over the last few years, the increasing demand in the healthcare sector may sometimes result in caregivers losing sight of the person behind the condition they are treating or managing. Through the internet and patient-centered care, the carers can refocus on significant aspects of care and successfully identify and fulfill their patients’ needs (V Stanhope et al., 3). On the other hand, patients are likely to adhere to treatment plans if they feel involved, cared for, and respected. With effective assessments and diagnosis, the internet can also assist in the development of treatment plans. For instance, when it comes to diabetes, a couple of online templates exists that assist clinicians in treatment planning. Additionally, when handling diabetes patients, the clinician can easily access the practice guidelines online.
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Additionally, the internet also facilitates the communication between patients and care providers. One of the most used electronic platforms is electronic mail (email) (J Dash et al., 1-2). The email has been used for doctor-patient communication for many years. It has largely improved care because of the better tracking of the patient’s progress and reduced costs associated with hospital visits (V Stanhope et al., 6). Other platforms being used in doctor-patient communication include Avizia, American Well, Carena, Doctor On Demand, and MDLive. Through these online communications, patients can also see clarifications from doctors, especially regarding emerging symptoms and medication side effects.
The internet has also improved record-keeping. Nowadays, patients’ increased demands regarding their medical records call for more sophisticated storage of files. Many patients have come to understand their rights on knowing their diagnosis and treatment plans being developed. With the internet, clinicians can store patients’ medical records from their first visits and the complications that have been managed and treated over the years. Through these records, physicians can also know the root cause of issues (Y Alotaibi et al., 1178). For example, a bipolar patient who has been using a medication like Haloperidol and Olanzapine would be at a higher risk of experiencing tardive dyskinesia. Suppose such a patient comes with tardive dyskinesia complications, the physician will know what could have caused the issue through the review of past electronic medical records.
Medical technologies that were exclusively being used in hospitals and general practices are now available at a distance. The internet has also allowed remote monitoring of the patients and effective disease management (A Vegesna et al., 3). Most of these monitors automatically retrieve information from the patients and send it to the healthcare organization’s computer that the clinician can easily access. The computer or the system, on the other hand, summarizes and restructures the data that helps the healthcare provider in interpreting it (Y Alotaibi et al., 1175). Studies have proved that community-based remote patient monitoring improves the patient’s outcomes for certain conditions, including but not limited to heart failure, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.
With access to various monitoring devices, including Blood Pressure Cuff, Smart Watches, patients become more active in their disease treatment and management. Other software that helps doctors monitor their patients remotely include JotForm, Dexcom, Senseonics, Medtronic, Resideo LifeStream, and Philips. In their work, Reinertsen et al. (O5TR01) add that various telephone and videoconferencing equipment are also being used in monitoring sleep patterns, self-care behaviors, heart rate, nutrition diet tracking, stress, and emotional wellbeing monitoring. Such equipment helps physicians to note changes in the functional health of their patients at home. Vegesna et al. (14) add that patients and clinicians also examine how the patient’s lifestyles and environment are influencing their health through these monitors. The tools also alert doctors when the patient is doing badly.
Another benefit of the internet to the patients’ health and wellbeing is the reduction of medical errors. With the introduction of bar code medication administration (BCMA), medication errors have largely been reduced. Bar code medication integrates electronic medication administration records with bar code technology. The primary aim of this system is to inhibit medication error since they guarantee that the right patient gets the correct medication at the right time (K Thompson et al., 342). These systems are built to alert the clinician when the wrong or a look-alike medication is selected. For example, while some systems tend to produce alerts when a medication is confused, others offer clinical advisories for medication when scanned. In randomized control trials that Balas (1309) conducted, it was evident that when medication administration is linked with electronic medication administration records, medication administration errors tend to reduce by 50% to 80%.
In summary, the internet has largely benefitted the healthcare sector in improving patients’ health and wellbeing. Firstly, the internet has become a significant contributor to consumer health where patients have a more pronounced part to play in their health. When patients feel appreciated, respected, and engaged in their care, treatment adherence tends to increase. The internet has also assisted in effective diagnosis since the physicians have all the information they require from the examination room to history taking. With all this information, making the correct diagnosis becomes easier. The internet is being used in patient monitoring, where various remote monitoring systems are being used. Through these monitors, patients’ data is collected and sent to a system that the clinicians can access and know how the patient is doing. Also, the internet is helping in drug administration which tends to reduce errors. Through bar code medication administration, physicians are easily alerted when they make mistakes or offer the patients a look-alike medication. Record keeping and billing have also become easier in this era. Unlike in the past, where patient’s records were kept in bulky files, patient’s histories can easily be retrieved from a computer. The easier access to these files is facilitating stress-free access to patient records, a better quality of care, and more accurate patients information that increase efficiency. Lastly, the internet is facilitating doctor-patient communication. In this case, patients can easily alert their doctors about various complications and drug side effects, and measures are easily taken.
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