Webinar XIX – Digital health is changing the roles of doctor and patient: what impact on developers? 30th March

The purpose of this webinar is to understand how experts see digital health changing those roles and therefore to start the process of identifying how developers might respond to ensure that the least resistance is met in achieving some potentially extremely exciting outcomes. Note that as one of the speakers will be coming to us from the West Coast of the USA, we are starting much later than usual, and to help one of speakers who has a Wednesday pm surgery, we are on a Tuesday this time. In our early February 2021 newsletter DHACA drew attention to a Lancet Digital Health Comment paper entitled Disrupting the power balance between doctors and patients in the digital era. A very short summary of the points made is:
  • Current medical practice relies on patients perceiving symptoms which typically have to exceed a threshold before seeking medical assistance; by that point the disease may already be chronic;
  • Wearables and smartphones offer the opportunity to collect objective information enabling earlier diagnosis, though the medical world is not yet able to cope well with these;
  • The heart of the matter is that symptoms are typically subjective so “Definitions aside, if patients were able to collect accurate objective measures of health themselves, and could track these measures independently, would these not be patient-generated signs and symptoms that could be adequate grounds for action?”;
  • In other words the move from subjective interpretation to objective observation critically changes the doctor’s role: “This new digital environment accelerates participatory medical models, enabling patients to work alongside clinicians and, occasionally, take the lead in the management of their own health.”;
  • A good example of this quoted is “studies utilising wearable devices are showing promise in early detection of COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals who show changes in heart rate, activity, and sleep.
  • The challenge for doctors of course, so elegantly described by Professor Nicholas Peters some time ago, is that doctors are dependent on their patients’ dependency on them.
Speakers included two of the authors of the Lancet paper: Dr Sarah Goodday, a Research Scientist at the University of Oxford’s Dept of Psychiatry and a Senior Research Scientist with 4YouandMe. Professor Stephen Friend, Visiting Professor of Connected Medicine at the University of Oxford’s Dept of Psychiatry, CoFounder/President 4YouandMe (nonprofit) Dr Steve Laitner, General Practitioner with a Public Health and strong Clinical Leadership background Dr David Kryl, Director of Insight at the Wessex AHSN and its Centre for Implementation Science at the University of Southampton A recording of the event is here. The slides used are here. In due course we will be preparing a written summary, which will also be on this website.