Approaching new technologies: between fake news and telemedicine

New technologies play an increasingly important role in every area of our lives and our daily routine. Obviously, the sphere of health and care does not escape the rapid evolution of means and tools at the service of our well-being. But there are also risks to be taken into account when talking about, for example, the transmission of knowledge from a distance.

Fake news, which have often found fertile ground in medical matters, are a clear reminder of this. This is an important phenomenon in our society since a long time, just think of the collapse of the stock exchange to the bogus announcement on the death of Napoleon or the radio broadcast of Orson Welles on the alien invasion. In 2016 alone, 20 articles most frequently shared on Facebook had the word “cancer” in their headlines, and more than half were based on dubious claims and misinformation, according to a stunning study by the Independent. There are many guides and advice that have fortunately come to the rescue, we gather some points for our readers:

– Consider the reliability of the publication.

– Remember, discoveries are very important events.

– Just because it seems to be true does not mean it is.

– Check the credibility of the cited research journals

– Watch out for myths and scams

– Do not support conspiracy theories

– The number of shares is not a sign of truthfulness.

Luca Landucci, contributor to Wikipedia since 2005, expert in web marketing and content management of uses on the web, recalled in an interview:

“Paradoxically, it’s simple: never trust a single source. Cross-referencing the answers you get and above all always comparing them with the validated sources. It is, however, a delicate question because it affects the cultural plan, and the diffusion of digital culture is not yet at a sufficient level”.

The Istituto Superiore di Sanità has done an excellent job in the fight against disinformation, collecting on its website many of the most widespread myths, clichés and fake news with its corrections. For example, under the heading “If you don’t know someone in hospital you don’t receive treatment”, they respond with “Italy is one of the European countries that guarantees greater protection of the right to treatment. They have access to treatment, in fact, in addition to all Italian citizens, including all European citizens and non-European regular or irregularly present in our territory. Or again, under the heading “Vaccines give rise to autism”, the answer is “in 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the onset of autism depends on the association of several factors, genetic and environmental, still partly unknown and amply demonstrated the lack of connection with vaccines.

So, as ascertained by these brief insights, the technologies, depending on the use we make of them, can be both evil (the fake news), that the cure (guides and information supported by serious sources).

Another possible virtuous use of technologies in the health sector can then be found in the area commonly defined as “telemedicine“, i.e. the use of telecommunications and information technologies to provide clinical health care at a distance.

Once again, it is the context of developing countries that provides a backdrop to these events, as recalled by the Italian study entitled “Telemedicine for Developing Countries“. The research shows that developing countries need telemedicine applications that help in a variety of situations, such as when doctors are few compared to the population, when specialized doctors are not available, when patients and doctors in rural villages need assistance in providing health care. In addition, the requirements for telemedicine applications in developing countries are a little more demanding than in developed countries. In fact, further social, organisational and technical aspects must be taken into account for the success of telemedicine applications in developing countries. These are the aims of the scientific study:

“Let’s consider all the main telemedicine projects dedicated to developing countries. We want to define a specific taxonomy that allows a correct classification and a quick overview of telemedicine projects in developing countries. Moreover, we want to complete this overview by discussing some design issues to be taken into account in the development of telemedicine software systems”.

Finally, the article “Personalized Telehealth in the Future: A Global Research Agenda” shows how telemedicine plays an increasingly important role in the delivery of global healthcare and how important it is to develop a solid foundation of innovative and successful telemedicine solutions that can lead to sustainable programmes:

“There is no single approach to managing patient care with telemedicine, because the management of chronic diseases is different. For new technologies to succeed, they must meet a range of user needs. Technology must involve patients in their care and improve collaboration with the healthcare system, otherwise they will fail. Patients need skills and tools to proactively apply vital technological information. In addition, patients need their use of new technologies to be personally significant (i.e., in terms of self-care) so that these devices can serve as an irruption into the patient’s daily life and can serve to focus their health on a personal level, not to define them according to their disease status”.

Matteo Nunner

Graduated in Literature at the University of Eastern Piedmont, he's now studying anthropological and ethnological science at the University of Milano-Bicocca. Journalist and writer, he collaborated with many local newspapers and in the 2015 he published his first book "Qui non arriva la pioggia". In the 2017 published "Il peccato armeno, ovvero la binarietà del male".

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