Yes, telemedicine, digital hospitals and robotic doctors are good for our health.
Michael Kurzidim (Illustration: Lisa Schweizer),
Nobody likes being ill. As the famous saying goes, it’s better to be rich and healthy than poor and ill. And nobody would care to contradict this. However, thanks to major advances in medicine, guaranteeing optimal health care is becoming ever more challenging and, unfortu-nately, also increasingly expensive. Will we soon be heading towards class-tiered health care, providing top quality for some and only basic care for others? No. Digital e-health technology will help us gain con-trol of the dilemma between escalating costs and medical quality. Here are three examples.
Medgate, which has its headquarters in Basel, runs the largest tele-medicine centre in Europe. Patients contact the attending physician by phone, Internet or the video system at more than 200 Swiss pharmacies with their symptoms. Photos – for example of skin or eye changes – are submitted in advance by e-mail or with the help of the Medgate app. One of the one hundred Medgate doctors then pre-pares a diagnosis and discusses therapy suggestions with the patient. Telemedicine services provide real relief in particular for older pa-tients in rural areas who find it difficult to get to the doctor. Medgate now provides up to 4,900 telephone consultations per day.
Cardiance in Pfäffikon is the first fully digitalised cardiac clinic in Swit-zerland. Catheter procedures are performed ambulantly. Many pa-tients prefer to be able to go home after the procedure and recupe-rate in familiar surroundings. The hospital, in turn, can treat more patients as a result. An example from Germany: The Charité hospital in Berlin uses fast analysis technology for cancer treatment. Software compares thousands of patient histories to find the most promising treatment for an individual patient. The Charité has thus successfully squared the circle, as it were. Cancer treatments are becoming both cheaper and more successful.
has been writing for “Computerworld” for eight years, loves new technologies, and is convinced that technology makes the world a better place. He has been an ICT journalist for 25 years. Michael started off as a software developer and has a Master’s degree in philosophy and German/linguistics. In his private life, he is a pas-sionate cineaste, loves the Swiss mountains and, in the summer months, enjoys spending his time at the swimming pools around lake Zurich. He is also a fan of the German Bundesliga team Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Are we heading towards class-tiered health care, providing top quali-ty for some and only basic care for others? No. Digital e-health tech-nologies will prevent this.
Will we all soon be treated by fully automated, robotic doctors? Many patients respond to this with profound fear. Definitely not – I’m not letting any tin can touch me. However, experts admit that robots often operate with greater precision than humans. For example, the medical robot Da Vinci performs kidney surgery as well as colorectal and prostate cancer operations. However, it is controlled by a human. Medical professionals differentiate between robot-assisted surgery and fully automated systems. Robots that perform operations auto-nomously have – so far – failed to catch on.
The digital revolution is not stopping short of the medical field, and all of us – doctors, hos-pitals, health insurers and patients – can benefit from this. However, this requires all patient data to be available in digitalised form. And that is the fly in the ointment, say those responsible for data protec-tion. To prevent patients from becoming “transparent”, the Swiss parliament has passed a federal law on the electronic patient record, which is to come into force in 2017. Patients will receive complete control of their data and can grant or refuse access rights to doctors, health insurance providers and hospitals. Theoretically, this will enti-rely eliminate data misuse.
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