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08/21/2018

Digital medicine – for whom is it?

Fund Commonwealth Fund conducted a study in which I wanted to find out how accessible the technology of digital medicine to people who need them most. In the category of such people were patients with low level of medical literacy. On the results of the study – on.

In the study, 26 low-income patients were observed, they used 11 popular and rating applications that helped in the treatment of diabetes, depression, or contributed to better care for patients. 70% of the participants showed a low level of medical literacy, so they were evaluated appropriately. These 70% received clear instructions regarding the use of the application. Users had to work with the application and share their experience of use.

What did the researchers discover? Patients experienced problems with manual input and often did not understand what exactly they wanted. What is important is that absolutely all applications meant manual input, and it seemed as simple as possible, but the participants of the experiment could not, without outside help, perform half the actions required by the application. The same problem was the extraction of data from applications. 79 tasks out of 185 were able to cope with similar problems.

What conclusions can be drawn? Such applications should have larger buttons, and the interface should be as simple as possible. Developers should more clearly explain why a user should perform an action. Firstly, it will cause more confidence, and secondly, patients may simply not know why, for example, a diabetic is important to make information about the food consumed in the application.

Also known are the data of the experiment, in which doctors have been communicating with several thousand elderly people for four years. The main question of researchers was this: did patients have to use the Internet to solve the following problems: updating prescriptions, consulting a doctor, searching for information about the state of health, and resolving insurance issues.

In the period from 2011 to 2014 in this group, the level of Internet use has increased, but insignificantly – from 21% to 25%. Most often, the Internet was used to search for information about health and communication with a doctor, but updating prescriptions and insurance issues were the least popular actions.

By the way, at the time of the experiment all its participants turned 75 years old. All of them had computers or mobile phones, but they used these devices to send letters or write texts.

Authors of the study David Levine, Stuart Lipsitz and Jeffrey Linder comment on the results of the work:

“Digital medicine just does not get to the old people. This is due to socio-economic inequality, which raises concerns about its ability to somehow improve the quality and cost of their treatment. Future innovations should focus on ease of use, strict adherence to curative rules, and scalability, which will improve the availability and effectiveness of digital medicine for the elderly. “

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