Human life has changed in countless significant ways over the past few decades with the rise of technology. Though it’s hard to remember a world pre-internet, there was a time not too long ago when the best way to gather information was to head to the library and flip through a few books. Services, too, were at one point delivered exclusively in-person. Nowadays, the ways we access information and engage in services are largely through online means. This expanding technological field has had profound impacts on health and wellness, empowering us to take greater control of our wellbeing.
Health apps and websites are on the rise, bringing management and maintenance of wellbeing into our own hands. These new technologies have helped in countless ways behind the scenes of health care as well, playing a part in helping to prevent, diagnose, and treat a variety of conditions. In 2017, a comprehensive analysis of new health-promoting technologies determined that the use of these technologies can help to:
· Reduce operational and administrative costs,
· Improve access to health care, and
· Increase quality and efficiency of care, amongst other benefits.
With internet-based services at our fingertips, we can connect with health care providers and professionals from anywhere and at any time. Online health programs also empower those who do not typically seek support through traditional means, placing the opportunity for wellness assistance in the hands of anyone with a personal device. A wide range of online services mean prices vary, thus increasing the accessibility of various types of health services. From free apps to more expensive and intensive online programs, everyone can find online groups and communities to support their wellbeing.
When it comes to reducing alcohol consumption, this new way of delivering treatment comes at an appropriate time as within North America, less than 1 out 3 people seek treatment for heavy drinking, according to J. A. Cunningham, K. Kypri and J. McCambridge in “The Use of Emerging Technologies in Alcohol Treatment”. The report suggests that some of the primary reasons people do not seek treatment include stigma, embarrassment, and a desire to manage this struggle on one’s own. Online services and associated technologies offer individuals the opportunity to find support in their own way, without the high costs, travel distances, and requirement of showing up in-person. They also help to ensure that continued support is available.
Studies are beginning to show that these new ways of intervening with one’s drinking patterns are effective. One randomized trial conducted in the Netherlands found that an interactive, web-based treatment program helped to reduce heavy drinking amongst participants. Weekly alcohol consumption dropped significantly compared to the trial’s control group.
The truth is, not all platforms are created equally. Tools, features, and levels of personalization vary greatly from one service to the next, creating vast discrepancies in user experience of online health services. Cynthia Burghard, research director at IDC Health Insights, names two key elements that create a better experience for users: functionality and personalization. Mobile apps, appointment reminder systems, and ease of use add to the functionality of any platform. When it comes to personalization, individually tailored approaches stemming from real-time data help caregivers to deliver the most effective treatment to each individual they work with. The combination of functionality and personalization allows patients to better manage their own health, leading to greater success in treatment. Effective Internet-based treatment programs bridge the gap between patients and their health providers. While many apps and online platforms provide limited opportunity for interaction between caregivers and clients, some services are enhancing personalization by focusing on patient engagement. Greater engagement with clients increases the bond and sense of trust that is established between clients and health care companies.
When it comes to improving our health through the management of alcohol consumption, ALAViDA is an example of one online platform that focuses heavily on client engagement and personalization. The customized program is able to provide personalized care through client diaries and private sessions with therapists and doctors. Through the online platform, clients log their drinking and non-drinking days, their triggers and protective factors, and their medication intake. These records help individuals to monitor their consumption, reflect upon it, and consequently become more mindful of their intake. It also helps caregivers to respond most effectively to the data provided. This type of monitoring and increased mindfulness of personal habits helps clients reach their goals and sustain them long-term.
With all of the potential benefits provided by Internet-based programs, how can we contribute to our personal health journey while using new health-promoting technologies? What types of features should we be looking out for? Here is a guide that can help us choose the right service and boost the efficacy of the technology available.
When choosing an internet-based health care service, consider the features that are most important to you. For instance, do you want it to be mobile device-friendly? Do you want reminders, motivating messages, or personalized feedback? Think about the time you want to spend on your device using a health-promoting tool to help determine which platform best suits your lifestyle. Explore the interface in advance (if possible) to get a feel for how user-friendly it is.
The goals we set for ourselves should be both challenging and within reach. Even though you’re not there yet, the objectives you set should feel attainable. To help achieve your goals for the future, ensure that they are specific, measurable, and timely. Focus on short and mid-term goals while keeping long-term goals on the backburner for a later pursuit.
We can help to strengthen the bridge between ourselves and our care providers by offering our feedback on the services we’re using. What feels to be working, and what doesn’t? Opening up about our experience can help to improve the care we are receiving in the present moment, while also helping to improve the technology being used. Providing honest feedback strengthens the human connection between ourselves and our therapist or doctor, the most important link in any client-caregiver relationship.
The technology our service is based upon can be an effective tool in our journey towards greater health and wellness; however, it’s not the driving force. Remembering that we are the key agents in making change happen helps us feel empowered and in charge of our own health. The technology behind the scenes can be viewed as a helping hand while we, ourselves, are doing the real work.
Access the ALAViDA TRAiL app.
Alavida is an outpatient treatment program that helps people to get back to a healthier relationship with alcohol, thanks to the combination of medication, therapy and technology. On our blog, you will find stories, testimonials, evidence-based information and useful tips on how to prevent and overcome heavy drinking, while sustaining a healthy body and mind.