The Fate of Credible Information in a Pandemic-hit World

While digital interventions have been a part of our lives for a while now, what is transforming is the way we are using them as a part of our healthcare systems.

“In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power,” said Yuval Noah Harari in his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. For anyone scanning through information on COVID-19 online, and has fallen prey to misleading articles, Harari’s words are more pronounced.

The fate of information is transforming in the world that is recovering from a smouldering outbreak. With the novel virus upending healthcare systems around the world, digital solutions are plummeting. While digital interventions have been a part of our lives for a while now, what is transforming is the way we are using them as a part of our healthcare systems. From tools available to restrict the spread of infection by tracing the affected population, customized content on healthcare across channels, access to doctors over digital media, and the evolution of Clinical Decision Support (CDS) systems that allow information sharing on all kinds of medical subjects, providing personalised line of treatment and improving clinical efficiency, healthcare is witnessing the intervention of digital tools like never before. We are living in times when healthcare information is not only constantly evolving but also rapidly being updated as per the changing disease profiles. This is where the role of digital technologies becomes even more critical— Helping to achieve quality care by providing doctors with the most recent developments on their fingertips.

Let us understand this with an example. Time is critical when a patient comes to a doctor with a hope of getting better. In such a scenario, if the doctor requires guidance, he needs a medium that provides filtered and reliable information quickly. With the influx of information out there, there is an overload of content. The challenge is to sift through the content that is relevant, build and approved by experts and most importantly, available on a single platform. Credit it to the role of digital technology in our lives, all this is now available through CDS system on mobile applications, saving medical practitioners time and effort with offering correct treatment to the patient. Take for instance, Internet is swamped with information related effectiveness of covid-19 drug, Remdesivir. Instead of procuring information on it from various sources, doctors have CDS tools where all the filtered and reliable information on the drug is available. Such tools aim to apply standard practices across the healthcare system.

The dialogue on digital technology and its role in healthcare takes a centre stage at a time when PM Modi is envisioning India to become a digitally empowered society. We are living in a world where the relevance of CDS tools like UpToDate has taken a new meaning. I used it four to five years back when I was examining a rare microorganism, Elizabethkingia Meningoseptica, which grew from Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of the operated patient through an infected device. At that time, we did not know the kind of treatment to be given considering the rarity of the disease. That was the first time I used UpToDate. There were four to five studies that helped me decide the therapy and treatment. Since then, I have been using it almost every day. Even if I know the subject, I scan through the app to check for any development on it.

As doctors, we have a habit of maintaining a record of all difficult cases, twice or thrice a week to use it for future reference. Such literature can now be found in apps like UpToDate within minutes. Such CDS system supports the doctors by filtering out relevant data from the information deluge available on the internet. These apps act like interactive pathways with easy interfaces that help doctors make the most complex decisions with evidence-based knowledge. At a time like this, it is important for medical community to proactively make the best use of CDS system to get access to all the relevant education regarding treatment recommendation, drug information, patient case study and even a novel disease that could potentially be life threatening.

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COVID-19 Dr. Debkishore Gupta


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