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How can technology influence the patient-physician relationship?

The advancement of technology within healthcare has not only drastically improved the health of populations through innovative treatment and efficiency of care, but has also contributed to the shift in the dynamics of the patient-physician relationship.

The traditional patient-physician relationship has now transitioned into a partnership, encouraging collaboration to find the best solutions for patient health and well-being. The availability of information and technology provides patients with the ability to play a more active role in their own health decisions, but how does technology influence the relationship between doctors and their patients?

The rise of the internet has brought a flood of information that is readily accessible by more people each day. Patients are now able to access information and care options from a variety of sources other than their primary care physician, allowing them to take ownership and become more involved in making informed decisions regarding their own health.

As a result, more patients are seeking a partnership as opposed to the traditional paternalistic approach. While this drives a more preventative and informed attitude to health issues from both parties, it can also increase scepticism of the opinions of healthcare providers. An overwhelming amount of information creates the risk of patients becoming misinformed from unreliable sources; compared to the traditional relationship, a barrier can be created between the patient and physician if opinions from both parties differ. On the other hand, the recent rise in smartphone applications encourages patient involvement through tracking their own lifestyle and health behaviours. As both the patient and physician become more familiar with the patient’s behaviours and health issues through consistent monitoring and communication, it could potentially foster a long-term collaborative bond between the two parties.

Technological advancements are changing the dynamics between the patient and their physician, and it is important to recognise the potential impact it has on this relationship. Physicians and allied healthcare professionals are now able to stay better connected to their patients and, as a result, they need to play a much larger role as educators and partners in addition to being healthcare providers. As patients become more inquisitive and involved in making informed health decisions, the focus should be to move toward successfully integrating Web-based apps into a centralised electronic medical record system and streamlining health information, driving a better patient-physician relationship.

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