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Index of documents > Euromeetings Magazine > Euromeetings Number 21



MEDICINE IN THE DIGITAL ERA

What do we mean by speaking about ehealth? This concept implies a healthcare that is transformed by the use of digital technologies and their connexion to networks. The future health challenges go from medical history to apps about health on the smartphones, through telemedicine. Ehealth is a generic term that includes all digital services that look after our health or that help doctors to do so.

The term ehealth denotes every digital aspect that directly or indirectly affect health. Ehealth is a booming field which knows new applications on a day-to-day basis. It is about the digital revolution at the sick’s service regardless of their age. The digital era has transformed healthcare allowing to follow-up the worsening of pathologies and medical treatments in real time. This term is more generally used to explain the application of information and communication technologies to the health-related activities as a whole in the broadest sense of the term.

This affects fields such as telemedicine, prevention, home care, remote chronic diseases monitoring (diabetes, hypertension, cardiac failure, etc.), electronic medical rapports as well as applications and home automation. Ehealth appears more and more as the solution likely to be implemented in order to palliate the difficulties of our health system, nowadays confronted with several great challenges:

  • Population’s ageing
  • Dependency management
  • Chronic diseases appearance

Summing up, it is about approaching the sick individual to healthcare. For the patient, ehealth has to be a mean that enables a normal life at home but with medical supervision.

In the medical domain, the expectations are already focused on what is digital related. With the new information and communication technologies appearance, the patient could comfortably aspire to better adapted medical services with a more accessible, more efficient and definitively more focused to this patient healthcare.

Ehealth also changes the relationship between doctor and patient and the exchanges between health professionals as well as their formation. The healthcare and multidisciplinary consultation organisation has never been so accurate from the “virtual health” birth. In ehealth, three large fields should be differentiated:

  1. The transfer of details that permits the remote consultation and ask a specialist’s opinion
  2. The presence of robots in operating rooms
  3. The therapeutic care that permits a sick individual to control his/her state of health thanks to sensors and several connected objects

The IRCAD from Strasbourg prepares the operations of the future. For instance, a surgeon assisted by a robot will be able to monitor the patient’s anatomy as if his/her skin was transparent, the organ to be operated, the path to be followed in order to reach it and also the areas to be avoided.

Another experiment is the home healthcare that is in charge of strengthening the sick individual’s autonomy. The PICADo project evaluates the interest of the techniques based on the digital connexion in order to design a multi-pathological care system focused on the sick individual. A first clinical study is focused on digestive or pulmonary system cancer patients. Another study is focused on sick individuals having cognitive disorders with loss of autonomy, including Alzheimer disease.

We will have to learn how to manage the inherent risks to these new tools. How to protect the data and avoid hacking? There is another risk that is rarely mentioned: these sensors constantly informing us about our state of health, would they not turn us into hypochondriacs and would they increase our permanent concern?

In the future, thanks to our smartphone, we will be able to have a medical examination, to detect any melanoma from a screenshot, to enable a drone to deliver a defibrillator at home or to query DNA sequencing. The health domain is in full transformation thanks to digitalisation, miniaturisation technologies and electronics. Far from futurist fantasies, we will soon be able to imagine a remotely connected, examined and auscultated body. We still have not achieved it but it will be our future regarding health. However, would this future not foster a particularly perceptible concern among the elderly? Will the digitalisation at the health’s service put an end to the human factor in medicine? The professor Bringer from the French National Medicine Academy asserts that these evaluations will enable modifying the profession but, above all, medicine will have to maintain this permanent concern regarding the person and human contact.

Free article by Jean-Claude Chrétien
Honorary President