Despite the dire start to the day, as the friend I went with and I were both messily hungover (ironic given the focus of the conference), we came away incredibly thankful that we had been. This mainly stemmed from the fact that it was a topic that neither of us knew anything about, let alone existed, but now understand why it’s so important. Therefore, I thought I would use this piece to provide a brief overview of what we learned, so that way more people can obtain a similar understanding.
There’s no question that nowadays technology encroaches on and changes almost every aspect of life. This is often referred to as convergence, which is when multiple existing platforms or facilities come together to make one. Take online news as an example, as it enables viewers to consume in various ways – whether it simply be reading an article, watching a video, listening to a podcast, or even playing a game.
The same can be seen in the health industry, and while at first I was unsure how far this could extend, due to one’s natural desire to see a doctor when they face a problem, there are remarkable steps being taken in the field.
One that I found quite notable was a system called ‘Flo’ which involves participants receiving text messages from ‘Florence’, a personalized data base, reminding them to take their medication, confirming their appointments and generally checking up on them from time to time. Not only can Florence text participants, but participants can text Florence.
For instance, when one starts to develop new symptoms they can text her informing her of these symptoms and inquire into what they might mean. Therefore, instead of having to have regular checkups, one can simply send a text and thus save a lot of time. In turn, this makes for a more affordable healthcare option as nor do people have to pay for these regular checkups, which is fundamentally important as it means that it is not bound by socio-economic class.
Another example of this can be seen through a game developed by the University of Auckland called ‘Sparx’. The target audience for the game is for those between the ages of 12-19 who suffer from depression, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. It involves the player designing an avatar who then enters a semi-dystopian world to complete quests and overcome hurdles. Upon doing so, they are told how they can translate these new skills into the real world in order to combat against their mental illness.
While some raise the valid point that it may appear to trivialize mental illness, there have been incredibly positive results for those who have played the game. Not only does it enable them to seek help according to their own personal strengths or interests, but it also strays from the conventional methods of mental health recovery, such as seeing a counsellor or receiving medication, which don’t necessarily work for everyone.
Social media is also playing an increasingly important role in challenging traditional healthcare systems. Whaiora Online is a fitting example of this, which is a wesbite more specifically targeted towards Maori and Pacific Islanders, but is one that is likely to be adopted more broadly in one way or another.
It involves users running their own profile with customized goals and achievements, and assists in completing these goals through tutorial videos and so on. However, most importantly, it is designed to enable users to more easily connect with others in their respective situation or struggle – allowing them to seek advice when needed, or simply find someone to talk to.
Though it might not necessarily sound revolutionary, it’s proven to work as by nature people like to find comfort in those who understand what they’re going through – with this sometimes being more difficult to do in person for a variety of reasons such as geographic location, or confidence issues. Subsequently, Whaiora Online provides an interconnectedness that many might not have otherwise – not to mention people to talk to.
Though this is a very brief overview on the matter, I hope it captures the fact that technology is drastically changing the face of healthcare as we know it. Many people, particularly those belonging to older generations, are too ready to scold technology and argue that it has no real benefit – when clearly, it does. Ultimately, there’s no point resisting such inevitable changes, particularly when they bring with them such a revolutionized way of living.
Author: Harry Reid
Hi – my name is Harry Reid. I’m eighteen years old, and I’m originally from Greytown in the Wairarapa – which is approximately an hour out of Wellington. I’m the youngest of three children, with a twenty-year old brother and a twenty-two-year old sister. After finishing Wellington High last year I’m now in my first year at the University of Otago, doing a double degree in Law and Arts, with my Arts Major either being Communications or Politics – and whichever one I decide against will become my Minor. Some of my interests outside of University include photography, socializing with friends and keeping up with current affairs– among other things. Over the coming weeks I’m going to share with you some of my experiences (both good and bad) in my weekly blog. Feel free to follow my Instagram @harrrryreid for a more personalized view of what I’m up to!