What digital health tools are and how they can help people
More and more people are using digital health tools as part of their daily lives. Digital health tools aim to boost our health and wellbeing, or to improve health systems. Examples include smartphone apps, wearable devices (step trackers) and platforms that provide healthcare remotely.
Digital health tools have many benefits. They are convenient and can be used at any time and anywhere. Virtual healthcare is cheaper than face-to-face and allows health professionals to reach more people.
They can also empower people to manage their own conditions and have environmental benefits as virtual care removes the need for travel.
What digital health tools do the NHS provide?
Anyone with a smart device can download the NHS app from their device’s app store. You can also access NHS app services from the browser on a desktop or laptop computer.
The app allows users to access a range of NHS services 24 hours a day. You can search for, book and cancel appointments at your GP surgery, order repeat prescriptions, get secure access to your GP medical record, register organ donation and search trusted information on health conditions and get instant advice.
Other digital health tools
Outside of the NHS, there are many third-party digital health tools available. A few examples include:
Apps that help with reducing stress by helping an individual meditate, stay calm and assist the individual to become self-aware about their emotions and behaviour.
Fitness trackers monitor information like heart rate, burned calories and step count. These can be useful for users to maintain their body at a healthy level and notify them when the data suggests there may be an underlying health issue. The data is also helpful for GPs to use.
Blood pressure monitors
These apps cannot take blood pressure; but they are useful to store data about blood pressure readings in.
Keeping blood pressure data allows the individual to give the data to their GP when needed and allows the individual to monitor their own blood pressure from home.
What does the future hold for digital health tools?
In a post-pandemic future, patients will continue to access care from different settings, encouraging healthcare providers to meet patients where they are – with personalised services that suit their needs and preferences.
Banking, retail, and other industries already offer 24/7 digital access to their services since many years. Healthcare will have to follow suit to meet the expectations of the average person.
Telehealth and remote patient monitoring will become a healthcare mainstay and will support the care that patients receive in hospital settings. For patients with chronic conditions, much of the care that currently takes place in hospitals will move into their homes.
Digital health tools have the potential to improve healthcare by reducing the amount of travel that both patients and healthcare need to make by enabling health conditions and medication management to be monitored remotely. But to achieve this, users will need to trust that the data collected by the apps is being used safely and effectively and that healthcare professionals are acting on the results.