In recent years, a growing number of people are relying on digital health tools and platforms to manage chronic illnesses.
As we have seen with chronic pain, digital health can be particularly helpful for those with the conditions.
A growing number people are using the latest health apps and tools to manage their chronic illness, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
This week, researchers from the University of Exeter published the findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
“The technology to manage acute and chronic diseases is becoming increasingly relevant to people across the world, and with it, we are facing a challenge to provide access to this information,” Dr Chris O’Toole, who led the research, said in a statement.
“Digital health tools are becoming increasingly common, and there is a clear need for more information to inform decisions about the right treatments.”
Dr O’Reilly and his colleagues found that nearly one in three people with chronic illness who were using a digital health service at the start of the study had been diagnosed with a different chronic condition by the end of the year.
This was particularly the case for women, with the percentage of women with chronic disease diagnosed with heart disease double that of men.
The researchers also found that digital health services were more likely to prescribe antibiotics, which can cause long-term damage to the body.
“While digital health is being widely adopted as a means of access to information and diagnosis, it is important that health professionals are aware of how this information is being used and how this can impact their patients,” Dr O’Tolle said.
The team analysed data from more than 7.6 million people who used the digital health apps, platforms and services across 19 countries.
They analysed data on which patients were diagnosed with chronic conditions, whether they were prescribed antibiotics, how many were prescribed and the overall cost of treatment.
“This study highlights that digital healthcare is a powerful tool for the care of people with a variety of chronic conditions and we have to be mindful of the potential harms and harms of using it in this way,” Dr Anthony Deacon, an author of the research and an assistant professor of health information management at the University at Albany, said.
“There is still a long way to go, however, before digital health becomes widely accepted as a viable and practical tool for managing chronic illness.”
The study is part of a broader research project called Digital Health and the Future of Chronic Care, which aims to better understand how digital health will affect the way we manage chronic conditions.
“We are now living in an age where people are increasingly relying on technology and technology-enabled services,” Dr Deacon said.