By David Gregg, M.D., chief medical officer, StayWell.
Technology can be harmful to our health, especially our emotional health. Those are the latest findings from Cigna’s recent study highlighting the epidemic of social isolation. The report details the impact technology has on younger adults, communities, and even workplaces. While health care continues to focus on the latest tech advances, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, providers are seeing a steady increase in social isolation linked to technology.
With an ever-expanding inventory of digital health tools at our fingertips, we need to balance the benefits that these advances offer, with a human-centered, personal touch to improve the health and well-being of individuals.
Digital health has made significant strides in improving the health of patients, expanding a network of apps, digital platforms, wearables, and plug-ins – creating greater connectivity among patients, providers, payers, and employers, while capturing meaningful health data.
As technology advances we’re seeing innovative ways to use this data to reveal trends, detect health issues much earlier, trigger alerts, and personalize health care. But the digital health universe still cannot capture a full picture of a patient’s entire health. For that we still need a human approach.
Social media is a double-edged sword, bringing us all together as never before, but causing greater isolation and diminishing the richness of person-to-person interaction. Digital health technology poses a similar dilemma — we can link patients to care systems as never before and generate new avenues to share timely data, but can we maintain the valuable patient-care team relationship and avoid overwhelming care teams with too many data sources and administrative tasks?
More data is good, but is it the right data and are we applying it to deliver optimal care and improve health? Advanced technology is good, but is it producing efficiency and enabling care teams to do what they do best – take care of patients?
Digital health is a balancing act – we want to leverage high-tech while we preserve high-touch. For example, to maintain focus on the patient, health coaches are playing a more prominent role in the delivery of care. Health systems and employers are turning to health coaches to serve as a high-touch health champion to drive engagement and support treatment adherence. Health coaches serve as the human bridge between patients, care teams, and health plans. Coaches help make sense out of the wealth of digital health data.