The development of new digital technologies can help doctors and researchers to monitor physical functioning and health in a patient’s own home environment. This impacts how diagnoses are made, how therapies are monitored, and how we look at the impact of symptoms on the individual. In this episode of our Spotlight series, you can read about our German Mobiliser Hanna Hildesheim, how she ended up in research, and what thoughts she has on digitalisation in medicine.
Hanna Hildesheim (26) graduated from Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel (medical school) almost exactly a year ago and started her research career with Mobilise-D. “It’s quite overwhelming when you start working and are immediately thrown into such a huge project”, she says.
But how did she get involved in Mobilise-D? Did she work with wearables for Parkinson’s disease during her studies? “No, quite the opposite”, she laughs. “I wrote my doctoral thesis about moral distress among neurological residents and examined the extent to which working conditions in German hospitals affect whether young physicians can act according to their moral values in everyday clinical practice.”
This sharpened her view on how external conditions can affect patient treatment and the patient-doctor relationship:
“This is exactly the point that I find so interesting about the use of digital technologies in the home environment. Something fundamental is changing here: how diagnoses are made, how therapies are monitored, and how we look at the impact of symptoms on the individual.”
Hanna is originally from Cologne, but now she lives and works in Kiel. Outside of work she loves going to the theatre and dancing, as well as reading books and traveling. “I was in Newcastle once in the winter and tried to hitchhike to Edinburgh, but no one would take us, and we had to take a bus when it got dark.”
She is in a program called Clinical Scientists, which enables young doctors to engage in research. That means she is working scientifically with Mobilise-D, and clinically in the outpatient clinic of the university hospital, where she meets many patients with Parkinson’s Disease every day.
“It is really fascinating how different people are and which symptoms particularly burden them, depending on how they live, how their lives are structured and what kind of job they do, for example. Of course, these are not new findings, and approaches such as shared decision-making or precision medicine consider the increasingly individualised tailoring of therapy, but the use of mobile technologies in everyday life opens a lot of new possibilities. I also believe that it can lead to more patient empowerment and perhaps focus more on disease prevention in the future. Because if we can track more and more what makes people ill or leads to falls or hospitalisation, then we can also turn the question around and ask ourselves what keeps people healthy, or perhaps at some point we can abandon this binary concept completely.”
“From my medical point of view, I am of course also afraid that the increasing use of technology will have a negative effect on the patient-doctor relationship, i.e., that processes that arise in conversation will be replaced by more efficient technologies.”
In the last few months, she has given several lectures on digital medicine in Parkinson’s patient groups:
“A lot of them, mostly the older, shows scepticism towards this in the beginning, but at the end, they are very interested to hear more about the background and to understand that digitalisation contains many different levels and aspects. Many people (and I don’t want to exclude myself at all) are afraid of new technologies at first, but it makes no sense to divide ourselves into technology enthusiasts and technology fearers, as we often need input from all sides in order to develop good ideas for more relief of suffering and more fair health care! I used to think that certain technologies would lead to change (i.e., TV to loneliness or AI to machine domination). Now I think it’s the human being who brings about that change, depending on how they use technology. That’s why I think it’s great to be involved in science, to possibly make a small contribution to ensuring that such decisions in medicine are made based on the well-being of the patient and not only on monetary factors, and that’s also why I think it’s great that increasing numbers of patients are getting involved in these research processes, like with Mobilise-D! If we want to combat power imbalances such as “knowledge is power” in the old paternalistic doctor-patient relationship or “data is power” in the current mega companies-dominated digitalisation process, then we should already start with this in research and address it conceptually and for example by integrating patient representatives!”