Smartphones have transformed our lives and can definitely be considered a necessity rather than a luxury now. For some individuals from the millennial generation, it is more akin to an organ of their body. They communicate, entertain, educate and guide themselves with it. And of course – click lots of ‘selfies’ and ‘groupies’ with it! People carry their phones everywhere with them and there have even been instances of traffic violations or police brutalities coming to light via smartphone recordings. It was only a matter of time before they entered the sacred space of patient-doctor clinical encounters, giving rise to the Digital Clinical Encounters Market.
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What would happen if patients began to record clinical encounters covertly on their smartphones, smart watches or other digital devices? Would this challenge the social contract between physicians and patients, where the former perceive their professional privacy and autonomy to be compromised? Would they then respond by denying proper care to patients who want to maintain a digital record of the clinical encounter? Can this behaviour even be considered reasonable, desirable and justifiable in light of more engaged and active patients? All these are the questions posed to the Digital Clinical Encounters Market.
The three key drivers of the Digital Clinical Encounters Market are –
- Erosion of trust – An absence or loss of trust in the healthcare system is a major driver of the Digital Clinical Encounters Market. Some patients’ record clinical encounters on the premise that the care provided would not be at par with their expectations, while others have experienced inadequate medical response or poor assistance in the past.
- Shifting patient-clinical roles – There has been a sea change in the dynamics of the healthcare industry, especially in relation to control, power, and ‘ownership rights’ of a clinical encounter. Advocates of recording Digital Clinical Encounters view the behaviour as a legitimate and effective way for patients to assert or acquire more power in the health care processes than was previously given, challenging long-held perceptions of lack of empowerment and insubordination. The negative reactions given by medical professionals is considered evidence of this seismic shift.
- Greater patient engagement – In the 21st century, people have begun to focus on their health a lot more than they did in the past. They are helped in this endeavour by the dime-a-dozen smartphone fitness related Apps which allow them to track their exercise, vital signs, encouraging them to lead a fitter lifestyle. Recording clinical encounters can potentially increase patient understanding of medical information, improve prescribed adherence, and boost the quality of care provided. It can also be used by patients to obtain irrefutable evidence of poor quality medical care provided which can tilt the scales in their favour in any complaint. This will spur medical practitioners to provide the best possible care that they can, which will benefit patients in the long run.
The Digital Clinical Encounters Market restraints are as under –
- Ownership ambiguity – Patients covertly recording clinical encounters might be worried about the ownership rights of such data. They might have to listen to and make sense of all the new information stored with them. If they do not get the permission of the medical practitioner before recording, they might not be able to seek clarification about any concerns raised during the encounter.
- Physician concerns – The Digital Clinical Encounters Market allows patients to cut across established lines of the doctor-patient relationship and questions the very status of the former as the one keeping a legitimate record of the interaction. This is a strong challenge to their dominant status, which may damage their existing or future potential relationships with their client. Some medical practitioners might even deny care outright fearing potential legal lawsuits.
- Ethical problems – Recording Clinical Encounters digitally creates a number of ethical and privacy issues. Doctors or physicians can certainly think of covert recordings as a gross invasion of their privacy. There is no fixed regulation worldwide and while some organisations have a strict ‘no recording policy’, others have a completely open one. It can even be region specific. For example – There is less acceptance of covert recording in the U.S than in the U.K.
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