Healthcare Where You Are
I love my iPhone. I really do. But I don't think it's going to replace my physician. Or his office.
What's astounding, though, is that there are now more than 40,000 health apps that exist across multiple platforms. Many of these apps are simply things like calorie counters or workout logs, but about half of them are related to the healthcare profession, a disease state, or specialty.
A company called Happtique is now testing those medical apps against a set of published standards and performance requirements that look at operability, privacy, security, and content. Apps meeting these standards will receive the Happtique Certification Seal.
Soon, my physician may be giving me a smart phone physical, accessing data about my blood pressure or cholesterol, and prescribing apps—all remotely. He’ll probably be diagnosing conditions, as well.
Every day you can read about something new being developed. Like the Remotoscope—an attachment developed by Georgia Tech and Emory University that clips onto the iPhone and turns it into an otoscope to stick in your ear. That means parents of children with ear infections may be able to skip the doctor’s visit and get a diagnosis at home.
Will the physician go the way of the bank teller, travel agent, or grocery store checker? I don’t think so. But, it’s highly likely that patients will make fewer in-office appointments. Just like fewer people actually go to the teller counter, most of us make our own airline reservations online, and more and more of us are checking ourselves out at the supermarket.
A recent Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll found that one in three Americans want to use their smartphones or tablets to ask their doctors questions, make appointments, or get medical test results. Not surprisingly, younger adults are more eager to do this than older ones.
If it’s all automated someday, there might not be a need for a receptionist in the doctor’s office. Or maybe doctors will transition from standard offices to timeshare suites in clinics that they can use when they need to see patients. This is already happening in some markets.
For patients in the hospital or at the clinic seeing their physician, teaching them to use apps will be a critical part of the hospital discharge and office visit process. Private spaces that support this type of communication between physicians and patients and their family members will be needed. In some cases, group spaces may also be appropriate for patient education, especially for those with similar chronic conditions.
We’re already seeing clinics being designed with group spaces and exam rooms that have furniture configurations that allow physicians and patients to sit and talk to one another.
Mobile technology will also impact wayfinding in hospitals, which only makes sense. Many of us use our smart phones to find our way to places we’ve never been to before, like restaurants or a business colleague’s office. Why wouldn’t we use it to find Radiology in a complex medical center?
And finally, in some hospitals, smart phones are replacing nurse call buttons, allowing nurses to receive requests quickly and communicate directly with the patient to assess the urgency of each request. It has an impact on noise, too. Clinicians who use smartphones can communicate silently via text messaging, effectively eliminating overhead paging and reducing unnecessary verbal conversations.
What’s exciting to me in this new era of smart phone healthcare is that it enables people to be actively involved in taking care of themselves. And, it’s healthcare where you are, everywhere—not just at the hospital or doctor’s office.