09 September 2021
The pros and cons of e-health applications
If the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it’s the importance of digital healthcare – which allows patients to get the treatment they need even when they can’t go see a doctor.
With healthcare professionals facing a heavier and more complex workload, e-health is only going to become more important. The idea is to give patients more control over their own health – not just to take pressure off healthcare systems, but as a way to deliver better outcomes by unlocking new, more individually tailored care.
And that’s where e-health apps come into play. To work best, they need to be seen as a “co-production” between doctors and patients – empowering patients while increasing efficiency for doctors. The ideal app will meet clear criteria: global reach, customised advice, a basis in solid science, advanced functionality, and the highest ethical standards.
In a collaborative international research project I had the honour of being part of, we looked at five e-health apps used in primary care in The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Australia, the US, and the UK: Thuisarts.nl, Liva Healthcare, SHUTi, Babylon, and SkinVision.
The aim was to define best practice, increase GPs’ understanding of e-health apps, and highlight the pros and cons of e-health apps.
- Ease of use.
- 24/7 availability.
- Speed – no need to wait for appointments.
- Less demand for physical consultations.
- Limited data collection.
- No negative impact on ultimate treatment decisions.
- Overall improvement of patient outcomes.
- High satisfaction – good acceptance by patients.
- Some data privacy risk.
- Resistance from doctors due to perceived loss of control over care process.
- Potential loss of revenue for healthcare providers.
- Lack of good-quality scientific research into e-health impacts.
The project concluded that e-health applications generally improve the quality of patient care and make the doctor's practice more efficient. But the doctor must be willing to work with them. And external scientific analysis of complex applications with AI is needed. If these conditions are met, e-health applications can make healthcare significantly better and more available.