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 Table of Contents  
EDITORIAL
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 103-105

Digital technologies for personal health management and preventative healthcare


President of the European Chapter of the International Society of Digital Medicine, Towcester, UK

Date of Web Publication18-Oct-2018

Correspondence Address:
David John Wortley
The Old Barn, Pury Road, Alderton, Northants, NN12 7LN
UK
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/digm.digm_21_18

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How to cite this article:
Wortley DJ. Digital technologies for personal health management and preventative healthcare. Digit Med 2018;4:103-5

How to cite this URL:
Wortley DJ. Digital technologies for personal health management and preventative healthcare. Digit Med [serial online] 2018 [cited 2018 Nov 12];4:103-5. Available from: http://www.digitmedicine.com/text.asp?2018/4/3/103/243636





David John Wortley, FRSA, was appointed as vice president of the International Society of Digital Medicine (ISDM) at the 2nd International Conference of ISDM held in Guangzhou, China, in May 2018. He is also the inaugural president of the European Chapter of ISDM, which was launched in Barcelona at the World of Health IT Summit in November 2016. Mr. Wortley is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Commerce and author of the “Gadgets to God” book, which reflects on humankind's changing relationship with technology. He is acknowledged internationally as an accomplished keynote speaker and thought leader on the impact of digital technologies on societal development. He has been the recipient of many awards for his pioneering work in the application of Information Technology in areas such as education and community development. Mr. Wortley was the Founding Director of the Serious Games Institute at Coventry University which was the first Institute of its kind in the world, bringing together education, research, and business development under one multidisciplinary roof. He has written many articles and delivered many presentations on the impact of digital technologies on health and well-being and has been a practitioner of wearable technologies for personal health management since 2013 and has personal experience of the use of Gamification and different wearable devices for the management of physical and mental well-being.

Welcome to this special edition of the Digital Medicine (DM) Journal on the theme of the use of digital technologies for personal health management and preventative healthcare. It is my great privilege to be the Guest Editor for this edition which focuses primarily on how disruptive and fast-evolving digital technologies are being and/or are likely to be used to tackle the serious global issue of lifestyle-related medical conditions.

Since its launch, the DM has been characterized by its enlightened and innovative approach to DM as an independent interdisciplinary field of study which brings together professionals from within and outside the practice of medicine, health, and well-being. The importance of this approach cannot be over-zemphasized because many of the digital technologies that our lives are increasingly dependent on have been developed for nonmedical applications. It is the increasing commercialization and commoditization of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), wireless communications, cloud computing, data analytics, and visualization and the Internet of things which has the potential to revolutionize health and well-being on a global scale. Such developments will impact professionals across all disciplines, transforming the nature of their work and introducing competitive forces not only from sectors which have previously had no involvement in medical practices but also from technology itself as we enter an era in which AI-based diagnostics are beginning to replace the judgment of human beings with years of specialist experience.

The 2nd International ISDM conference was held in Guangzhou, China, in May 2018 [Figure 1]. It provided ample evidence of some fundamental advances in the use of digital technologies for medicine, health, and well-being. Some of these advances arise from the direct application of medical knowledge to specific medical challenges and involve interdisciplinary collaboration between medical practitioners and technology professionals. During the ISDM conference, there were both presentations and exhibition stands focusing on the use of additive manufacturing (three-dimensional printing) techniques for prosthetic applications, replacing body parts with a high degree of precision and personalization to the individuals involved. In some cases, these techniques have been used to bring mobility to patients who have been wheelchair-bound for many years, totally transforming their lives and providing a level of independence which, without the use of these technologies would have been impossible.
Figure 1: Speakers at the 2nd International Society of Digital Medicine Conference

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Advances in medical science and the use of digital technology by pioneers such as the Founder of the DM, Professor Shaoxiang Zhang, to use advanced scanning and visualization technologies in the Visible Human Project[1] have led to a better understanding of the human body and improvements in diagnostics and the treatment of medical conditions. Indeed, it is such developments that have led to the near eradication of many historical causes of morbidity and the general increase in longevity globally.

Today, however, these increasing lifespans[2] and our ability to better treat and manage chronic conditions have brought about many serious issues that are creating massive pressure on healthcare resources. The aging society presents a very serious challenge[3] in the developed world where greater mobility and changes in society have transferred the burden of care from families and communities to the public and/or private institutions with all the associated costs and implications.

Within the theme of this special edition with its focus on personal health management and preventative healthcare, there is a rapidly growing use of digital technologies designed to manage chronic health conditions[4] such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Here again, technology is being employed to address the existing health conditions to empower patients and avoid unnecessary hospitalization and/or use of medical resources. Examples of this approach include the use of embedded sensor devices that detect glucose levels and control an insulin pump for people living with diabetes.[5] With the growing pressure on global health resources, solutions such as this and digital applications that allow patients to monitor their health and engage in tailored activities such as rehabilitation exercises with their own home are becoming increasingly popular and effective.

All of the examples I have illustrated above have focused on the application of digital technologies to address identified and preexisting medical problems. This, in my opinion, is the strict definition of DM – the use of digital technologies as medicine designed to manage, rectify and alleviate problems with health and well-being.

Today, however, partly through the medical profession's success in eradicating or almost eliminating many historical causes of morbidity and partly through improvements in living standards, we have entered a new chapter in humankind's history in which the combination of increased longevity and modern lifestyles are beginning to place an unsustainable burden on public and private health resources.[6]

Two important causes of morbidity that require urgent attention to avoid unnecessary strain on health resources I believe are:

  1. Lifestyle-related conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease
  2. Human error in diagnosis and/or treatment.


The use of digital technologies to address these issues and improve personal health management and preventative healthcare is vitally important to all our futures. In the first instance, I believe that technology should not only be used to empower citizens to better manage their health but also to bring some responsibility for personal health management to the individual with a mixture of incentives and penalties to encourage citizens to lead healthier lives. Wearable devices that collect health data and provide “smart health coaching” can potentially not only influence lifestyle choices but also provide the medical profession with valuable data that could improve medical practices and health policymaking. The Medical profession should not solely bear the burden of the global health issues we face today – citizen engagement and involvement is vital and digital technologies are an important enabler.

The other cause of morbidity which digital technologies can help to address is human error in diagnosis and/or treatment.[7] As medical interventions become more complex and increasingly involve multiple drug therapies, it should not be surprising that human error becomes a factor. In this context, big data analytics and AI applications are already proving effective in diagnostics and personalized medicine applications that take into account the unique genetic and cultural differences between every individual.

This special issue of the DM Journal contains a broad spectrum of articles and reviews from professionals across the globe. There are articles from Australia, Singapore, and the UK which focus on aging society issues. From Italy, there is a preliminary case report on the use of video games technologies for the rehabilitation of patients with spinal cord injuries. The use of big data analytics and genomics for personalized dietary advice is described in another article and developments in biomedical diagnostics is the focus of a review paper from the UK. There is a more general review from Myanmar examining the changing role of DM in public health policy and practices. Finally, an article from the UK studies the use of remote monitoring of patients recovering from elective surgery.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to all those individuals who have contributed to this special edition and all those professionals working with digital technologies for medicine, health, and well-being. Without your efforts, we face an even more serious crisis in future healthcare resources. I would also like to express my thanks to Professors Zhang and Liao for their on-going support and encouragement and to Tina Zhan and the Editorial team for their professionalism and responsiveness.

I very much hope you enjoy this special edition.



 
  References Top

1.
Zhang SX, Heng PA, Liu ZJ. Chinese visible human project. Clin Anat 2006;19:204-15.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Kevin W. UN Human Development Report 2005. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Available from: https://www.books.google.co.uk/books?id=NOitZkYzWooC&lpg=PR1&dq=9780195305111&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q=9780195305111&f=false. [Last accessed on 2018 Sep 03].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain Fit for the Future. HM Government White Paper. Available from: https://www.assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/730048/industrial-strategy-white-paper-web-ready-a4-version.pdf. [Last accessed on 2018 Sep 03].  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Georgeff M. Digital technologies and chronic disease management. Aust Fam Physician 2014;43:842-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Eric C. Insulin micropump with embedded pressure sensors for failure detection and delivery of accurate monitoring. Micromachines 2014;5:1161-72.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Fatma A. Lifestyle diseases: An economic burden on the health services. UN Chronicle 2010;47. Available from: https://www.unchronicle.un.org/article/lifestyle-diseases-economic-burden-health-services. [Last accessed on 2018 Sep 03].  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Rachel E. Prevalence and Economic Burden of Medication Errors in the NHS in England. Eepru 2018. Available from: http://www.eepru.org.uk/prevalence-and-economic-burden-of-medication-error-in-the-nhs-in-england-2/. [Last accessed on 2018 Sep 03].  Back to cited text no. 7
    


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