The world of public health is changing fast. To tackle growing health issues, we need to stay on top of the latest trends and developments in the field. Modern digital technologies may have some of the answers. Here are 5 of the most exciting digital public health trends that you need to know about right now:
1. Virtual reality in healthcare
VR brings new opportunities to engage patients in their own health and care. It also has huge potential for healthcare training and education. VR is particularly useful for trainings that demand extreme precision, such as surgery, as it allows trainees to practice as many times as needed until they get it right. VR is also particularly useful for patients who cannot engage in their own care, such as children and people with severe disabilities. VR can help them prepare for an upcoming surgical procedure, manage their chronic illnesses, and get support and psycho-social support. Healthcare has the potential to be one of the most transformative sectors that VR affects. It could be used to help patients prepare for surgery or manage their chronic or mental health issues, or help kids cope with stressful situations or learn new skills.
2. Blockchain for public health
Blockchain technology has been hailed as a cure-all for everything from world peace to ending pandemics. It’s a new type of database that allows people to store and exchange data in a transparent and secure way. The most well-known application of blockchain technology is the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. Blockchain is seen as useful for public health because it can facilitate secure transactions and interactions between different networks and institutions. This can be helpful for collecting and sharing health data, facilitating donations and financing initiatives, and implementing and monitoring effective public health programs and policies. Blockchain is still in its early days, but it is already showing promise for public health. The technology is still new and unproven, and some experts have raised concerns about its security. But if it can be implemented successfully in public health, it could have a transformative impact.
3. AI in public health
Artificial intelligence (AI) is already playing an important role in healthcare. It is being used in many ways, from supporting doctors in making better decisions and diagnosing diseases, to managing and monitoring health and wellness data collected from wearables and other personal devices. AI can be used to help predict and respond to pandemics and other public health threats. AI systems can analyse massive amounts of health data and look for patterns and connections between different diseases across regions and populations. They can also be used to develop and run simulations of pandemic response and track the spread and mutation of diseases. Artificial intelligence can be used to improve all aspects of public health and help us respond to new and growing threats, but there are some challenges that need to be overcome first.
4. Telemedicine and remote care
With the growth of digital health and the increase in people using online services, telemedicine and remote care are becoming more common. Remote care allows patients who cannot access clinical services locally to connect with health providers who are located elsewhere. It also enables clinical services to be offered to a broader population. Telemedicine can be used to deliver a variety of health services, including mental health services. Almost two-thirds of countries in the world have legal and regulatory frameworks to support and regulate telemedicine. However, a critical aspect of telemedicine regulation is the presence of digital infrastructure, such as internet and mobile networks, which are often lacking in many parts of the world. Internet connectivity and 15MBps mobile data speed are the minimum requirements for basic telemedicine and remote care services.
5. Automated Disease Surveillance
Health surveillance is the continuous monitoring of diseases, health outcomes, and health-related behaviours to identify and respond to threats, emerging issues, and changes in the health landscape. It is an important activity that can help us detect and respond to pandemics, track the spread of infectious diseases, and identify other threats to public health. Traditional disease surveillance relies on humans to collect, analyse, and respond to health data. This process can be slow and difficult to scale, especially when dealing with new and emerging threats. Automated disease surveillance is the use of machine-learning algorithms and other technological tools to accelerate and improve the surveillance process. It can help us collect, analyse, and respond to health data in real time, making it possible to respond to new and growing threats much faster.