Mireia Sans (MS in the text), family physician and director of the Unitat de Gestió Hospitalet Nord of Institut Català de la Salut, in an interview made by Anna García-Altés (AGA in the text), discusses the advantages of the new technologies for the health care world and advocates the importance of digital identity.
AGA: What it is meant by digital identity?
MS: It is the set of information that exposes us on the Internet, whether we’re talking about personal data, images, records, news, reviews… All this provides our description to digital level. It’s important to not try to invent a false identity but rather to emphasize the virtues-values-knowledge-skills you have and wish to publicize.
AGA: Is it necessary for health professionals to have a well presented digital identity? What are the benefits?
MS: Yes, it’s fundamental. Working on this identity is the first step towards a successful and proactive management of our digital reputation, which reflects what we do, what we teach and say about ourselves and also what others say about us.
AGA: Is it better for the digital identity to reflect a specialized profile or a various fields of professional knowledge?
MS: This depends on each professional’s objectives. According to Cristina Aced, consultant in digital communication, before launching into networks, she says, we must be clear about who we are (identity), what we want to achieve (objectives), what we want to say (messages), to whom (target audience) and where (social networks).
AGA: What are the risks that the health professional should take into account with regards to his/her digital identity?
MS: We must keep in mind the confidentiality of personal and clinical data. We have a duty of professional secrecy and we have to ensure that information is accessible only to authorized persons. We must protect our and other’s privacy and intimacy, in the same way as in traditional services. It’s also important to maintain a consistency between what we project on the Internet and what we really are.
AGA: In your case, which highlights served you more?
MS: Being present on the internet and actively participating allowed others to know me, allowed me to meet other professionals with similar interests, share knowledge and enhance a knowledge society in the health care. It’s a fantastic place to learn, reflect a in a participatory manner and present interesting initiatives in the field of health, innovation and new technologies.
AGA: How can a professional integrate this new resource with his work?
MS: It will normally be included on a daily basis. First, however, practitioners should get to know these new channels of communication that are Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube or blogs. They ought to know how to make proper use of these, be aware of their possibilities and risks and must safely manage information by taking into account the ethical code.
AGA: Is it a positive thing to interact with the patients?
MS: If people consult the Internet for diseases and treatments, download mobile health applications and use wearable technology, it’s imperative that we are also well trained in their use. In addition, we must ensure supervised, verified and updated content. Ideally, professionals could prescribe apps and websites and ensure the public that the content they find is reliable and of good quality.
With regards to this it’s worth mentioning that that we have the Certified Medical Web seal from the College of Doctors of Barcelona and the mark appsaludable (healthy app) which distinguishes health apps.
AGA: What are the best channels for the digital identity of a health professional?
MS: All channels can be useful as long as the professional knows it well and is clear in what situations it can be used, its advantages and limitations. For example, e-mail, social networks and websites can work very well in the health professional-patient relationship if the privacy and confidentiality of patient data and the rules of use is guaranteed.
AGA: What direction this new technology use in health should take?
MS: IT’s are paramount to improving the health care quality and the citizens’ wellbeing as well as the professionals’ tasks and system’s efficiency. Therefore, it’s absolutely necessary to promote its use, as is being done in Catalonia with projects such as the shared medical record, electronic prescriptions, personal health folder (Cat@Salud La meva Salut), remote medicine and remote care… These innovations allow patients to contact their relevant professionals obtain answers to questions, whilst professionals can follow the patients’ progress remotely or by appointing face to face consultation.