The confluence of digital technologies with health is enhancing the way of living for patients. It is taking the route of a multifaceted approach towards availability of timely healthcare facilities. According to McKinsey report 2019, India is one of the largest and fastest growing markets for digital consumers.
In this era of a digital explosion, people in India have not procrastinated in the use of technology. Hence, digital health initiatives should be of utmost priority to Healthcare providers. It can provide clinical health services to patients- following the emotional, psychological and social well-being tracks. Healthcare companies in developing countries like India, should be seeing this as an impetus to patients in general.
The impact of digital facilities can be positive on patients, majorly who have undergone critical surgeries. One such vital surgery that some patients are bound to undergo right after being associated with cancer surgeries like- colorectal, bladder, any type of bowel cancer or surgery for inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease- are ostomy surgeries. Ostomy is a surgery performed to create an opening – stoma, from an area inside the body to the outside. Colostomy, urostomy, ileostomy are specific to the patients, depending on which kind of ostomy surgery is required. Ostomy surgeries are fiendishly difficult on patients. The patients are posed with numerous challenges that changes their lives drastically.
For instance, to begin with, they have to adapt to using a prosthetic device - an ostomy bag that provides a means for the collection of human waste. Additionally, during this phase, an ostomate encounters few physical issues such as – skin irritability, stool or urine leakages from the bag, flatulence, sensation of the pouch getting filled, dehydration, retraction of stoma, odour from the ostomy bag, and many more.
Further into the stage of post-surgery, ostomy can involve changes in daily life, such as nutrition, clothing, work, leisure, social activities, sleeping, sexuality, and physical activity. Other aspects like- religious beliefs, feelings such as fright, insecurity, angst, denial, shame, pain, discontentment with appearance, and anger is prevalent among patients after an ostomy surgery. These feelings could persist and result in a feeling of social stigma.
Overcoming the challenges of this surgery can be arduous, but with improvised health initiatives, patients can cope with them. Digitisation of health services can assist patients in gaining easy and around the clock accessibility to connect with their doctors on stoma care and information related to pre and post ostomy surgeries. Digital platforms can help new patients to get initiated into the phase of undergoing ostomy surgeries.
Online health services can benefit the patient and his/her family by counselling them on the post-surgery life of the patient. The digital system can help new patients and their care givers, connect with existing patients and their families. This interaction, even via telecommunication will help alleviate their apprehensions, regarding the use of the stoma and how to lead a near normal life with the stoma. The use of various apps can also aid the healthcare provider to access patient data, and analyse the patients’ progress, for formulating the next step in treatment. A tab can be kept on the progress of the patients’ mental health through teleconsultation. This can also benefit the healthcare provider to access patient data and analyse the patients progress for treatment.
These platforms can also be used to contribute information on how to use ostomy bags, what types of bags should be purchased, what kind of physical activity is appropriate, advice on nutrition, skin care routine, and addressal of other issues – like leaks from the ostomy pouch, odour, clothing.
The use and augmentation of digital health solutions can help in achieving higher standards of health, and accessibility of services to promote and protect their health and well-being. A novel approach by the healthcare providers for patients, could lead to improved consultation, more patient involvement, and better adaptation to life with an ostomy.
The Indian digital healthcare system requires to look at the development of customer-centric services. Such services should involve support care strategies that can connect the healthcare workers and patients. Emphasis should be on how digital solutions can be made available to ostomy patients.