Professor Anthony Maeder, of Flinders University’s Caring Futures Institute, has described consumer empowerment and its impact on digital health research as a ‘hidden revolution in health care’ as part of his public lecture “Digital Health – Enabling Health Smart Living.”
Digital health is often seen as computerisation of information used by the health system, but Professor Maeder said that while electronic health records are a well-established element of digital health concerned with improving the health system, his work focusses on the emerging elements that provide ‘enrichment’ and make more of a difference to the patient.
Growing consumer empowerment in all aspects of life, including health, means that consumers want and expect to be informed about and have some involvement in their own health care.
According to Professor Maeder, consumer health roles can include making healthy choices, monitoring health status, taking preventative steps to reduce health risks, managing health conditions and ageing well.
Emerging models of care have more roles for patients and caregivers, not just for health professionals, as well as a greater focus on proactive and preventative health.
“Health care is shifting from fixing problems to helping people along the journey – whatever their journey is.”
“So not only is digital health about the IT side but it’s also about changing our way of thinking and behaving in terms of the health systems of the future,” Professor Maeder said.
“That’s what I find personally inspiring: digital health is a catalyst for change and if used wisely can bring about quite radical change.”
The Caring Futures Institute and Flinders Digital Health Research Centre encourage a rethinking of the paradigm – to consider digital health that’s relevant for society.
“I’m very proud to be one of the progenitors of that response,” Professor Maeder said.
The Caring Futures Institute and Flinders Digital Health Research Centre also focus on bringing industry and academia together.
“Most research project grants are led by clinical researchers or industry professionals who have seen that digital health is an integral piece of the puzzle – and we can help them with that piece.”
“Two health-related areas we focus on are wellness and ageing, in line with government priorities, but also these are the dominant dialogues in our society, and we can help drive them ahead.”