What are the Next Big Issues in Health Policy?
The 21st century has experienced unmatched levels of technological advancements especially in computer technologies, information technologies and the rise of the digital space. One of the areas that have been significantly impacted by these advancements touch on Health Information Technology (HIT) (Sebire, Sridharan & Priestman, 2018). This means that health information can be transacted over digital and online platforms as opposed to the past when health information was only available in physically published materials. It is said that â€œinformation is powerâ€ and arguably the choice behind this policy topic is guided by the fact that the digital platform provides a viable avenue for bridging health knowledge deficits and increasing health literacy across different populations in the US (Sebire, Sridharan & Priestman, 2018). Over the last two decades, there has been increased permeation of mobile technologies, the internet, computer technologies, and use of online social media platforms as well as increased use of online information. All these present an opportunity for the healthcare system and stands out as a promising moment in human history to empower patients and the larger public to take their health in their own hands by the virtue of seeking health information for self-efficacy and health promotion (Fagotto & Fung, 2019). Coincidentally, the rise of the health digital space comes at a time when the biggest health issues facing humanity are easily preventable by simply empowering the public and patients with information. Therefore, I have chosen this topic because of the untapped potential that lies with the modern-day health information technologies and online health resources. These benefits range from ease of proving health education and hence conducting health promotion undertakings through digital/online platforms, primary disease prevention and management to reduced cost of care as well as increased utilization of community health resources.
The concept of population health is bound to experience tremendous positive impacts from getting more people connecting to the digital health space. One of the areas that will experience a huge boost within the next five years relates to primary care and hence primary prevention. At the moment, the leading causes of mortality and morbidity across the United States such as heart diseases, diabetes and hypertension are easily preventable and this is through equipping community members with self-care skills that can be translated into health beneficent actions. These include positive behavioral and lifestyle changes, positive dietary modifications, uptake of physical activity and utilizing screening/preventive services in an optimal manner (Sebire, Sridharan & Priestman, 2018). All these casualties can be prevented by inculcating a sense of self-agency among community members. This is through health education and sensitization. It is no doubt that increased levels of health literacy are a major contributor to population health in as far as disease prevention and management are concerned. Therefore, through online published health education and other community health online groups as well as platforms such as telehealth-it is easy to ensure optimal fruition of health promotion and disease prevention.
Apart from that, empowering more citizens to access and utilize the digital health platform comes with significant cost savings. This is partly through early disease detection and the provision of timely primary prevention interventions. It is apparent that the cost of care increases with the complexity of the illness/disease and for this reason; it is quite rewarding to empower citizens to act in self-agency towards disease prevention and early detection/treatment. This will go a long way towards arresting the incremental cost of care that comes with other levels of prevention such as secondary and tertiary prevention. On the other hand, within the next five years, it is projected that this policy will enhance convenience in terms of using healthcare services and to a large extent lower the logistical barriers associated with having to move from rural areas to seek medical advice. Through online platforms, various health services can be transferred to this platform, therefore, limiting the cost and time burden associated with seeking medical care. For instance, for patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes can hugely benefit from digital technologies such as telemonitoring apps for blood sugar as well as access to continuous health education from remotely located healthcare professionals.
While this policy is associated with invaluable benefits in as far as population health is concerned, it is apparent that some barriers ought to be addressed. For instance, there is the need for increasing online and digital presence by people from all races, socio-economic status and entirely all adults across the United States (Fagotto & Fung, 2019). For instance, increasing the use of patient portals among community members should be encouraged through tailor-made health information in terms of language (Lupton, 2017). Health information should be translated into different languages so as to cover the linguistically diverse US populace. Furthermore, there is the need to address clinician resistance by introducing incentives for increased practical use of online and digital resources to provide care services (Lupton, 2017). This will ensure more clinicians appreciate these technologies and use them in a manner that promotes meaningful use and benefit to the public (Fagotto & Fung, 2019).
Fagotto, E., & Fung, A. (2019). A Connected Patient Is a Healthier Patient. https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2019/connected-patient-healthier-patient
Lupton, D. (2017). Digital health: critical and cross-disciplinary perspectives. Routledge.
Sebire, N. J., Sridharan, S., & Priestman, W. (2018). Digital medicine scoping: current state and future directions. Digital Medicine, 4(2), 66.