DIGITAL HEALTHCARE – IS IT FOR EVERYONE?

Digital Health

There has been a slow but radical change in medical equipment and their uses for the past two decades. Now this change has reached a point where the traditional methods are being replaced by the most innovative ones. Digital healthcare is one of these where anyone can access their health condition and be aware of or prepared for future remedies to tackle all their health concerns.

Digital healthcare means a connected system of healthcare, lifestyle and other social variables that frequently interact with one another with the sole aim of making the health services better. In other words, to increase the efficacy of healthcare delivery, computerized systems and databases are used. They make full use of software, web-based analysis, and remote monitoring systems to gather data. In addition, this is done through online facilities of e-mail, text messages, online pharmacies, online doctors’ availability, or wearable smart devices (like Apple Watch, etc). 

Precisely, digital healthcare is an integrated system that connects healthcare professionals, patients, pharmaceutical companies, digital tech companies – all for the sake of promoting general health and wellbeing. 

Is it for Everyone?

Despite the most innovative ways of integrating all data and variables in digital healthcare solutions, the question is; is it for everyone? This is debatable because there’s a big portion of the population, especially in the third world countries, where many don’t have access to either expensive smart healthcare gadgets or online medical facilities. One needs to think in terms of poverty-stricken nations and their access to such facilities.

Here are some limitations to digital healthcare;

Digital Health

1. Limited access to healthcare on a racial basis

It has been estimated by Aurora Health Care Surveys that blacks are more likely to catch chronic diseases like diabetes, blood pressure, chronic stress, heart issues, and migraines, etc as compared to the whites. This is purely on the genetic basis however, considering the low economic conditions of most of the blacks in the USA alone, the access to expensive smart healthcare systems seems a far-fetched dream for them. Therefore, digital healthcare doesn’t suffice to the black community in the developed countries (having almost 35% population), let alone the third world!

2. Barriers of language and communication

The digital health systems are a bit complex for the non-native speakers to comprehend. In the case of the USA, 37% population comprises of Spanish, Chinese, Filipino, French, and other languages. Most of the healthcare beneficiaries are the aged people of these communities who are unaware of these complex digital systems. This is a problem raises the question of equality and access to every facility for all citizens. 

Language and communication barrier is already a problem for the patients who seek traditional medical help i.e. seeing the doctors themselves. This is because they cannot properly communicate their problems and also, a lack of consideration for these communities makes them a bit reluctant to seek immediate help. So, if the traditional methods aren’t working, how are the most advanced ones going to be helpful for all? 

3. Low literacy and awareness

The digital health systems work best for the most educated or “trendy” ones, however the poor or uneducated have to rely on the traditional ways. According to the National Adult Literary Survey 2018, 52.5% of the Americans don’t know how to properly access or use digital healthcare systems. This is because of the low literacy rate among them. This is quite astonishing as compared to China where even the most poverty-stricken people have at least basic know-how of how to obtain healthcare for themselves. 

In such a scenario, low literacy patients fail to understand the prescribed medications and instructions regarding their use, which can be fatal in some cases as well. This results in more demand for health guidance and services, which ultimately increases the financial burden on the governments. The increase in medical expenditure in such cases can go up to 3-5%, which is drastic.

4. Cultural differences in diverse countries

There is a huge gap between the traditional and modern mindsets for approaching healthcare. In diverse nations like the USA, UK or European countries, there are a few hindrances that make the digital healthcare inaccessible for a big part of the population. Some of the cultural reasons include;

  • Communication gaps hinder proper healthcare service outreach, especially for Latinos and African Americans
  • Minorities’ mindset of being treated carelessly or discriminated
  • Preference to herbal medications, spiritual healing, and pseudo-doctors over digital healthcare
  • The issues of racism, ethnicity, sexism, homophobia, etc

 Conclusion 

Digital healthcare is a big leap towards convenience and progress in the medical health industry. However, the diverse nations are not yet ready to fully grab the benefits that can be reaped, if this system is incorporated properly. Above all, due to language barriers, cultural differences, and economic disparities, even the first-world nations are facing difficulties of outreach and access to every patient. Hence, the concerned authorities need to tackle the issue in a way that ensures acceptance and accessibility for EVERYONE, despite their differences in culture, age, race, or economic status.

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