There was a time when one always had to see a doctor to get a diagnosis and treatment. However, in just the past five years, healthcare delivery has changed. With the availability of digital devices like tablets and smartphones, medicine has gone hi-tech. Today, many hospitals have apps that provide direct information to the patient. The smartphones are now being loaded with ample medical information that is readily available with a click of a button. The days of physically going to a doctor for every complaint are over.
With the revolution in smartphone technology, there are tools that can track heart rate and rhythm, monitor symptoms of a mental health disorder and even tell you if the blood sugar levels are low or high. Smartphones have many benefits for the population – they can
- cut costs of a doctor's visit,
- speed up pace of care
- provide more autonomy and power to the patient.
While digital devices will never replace doctors, the relationship will be altered because of the middle “man”- the smartphone.
Today the smartphone can help with risk assessment of several important chronic disorders.
Diabetics can connect their glucose meters to the smartphone or upload the data which can be submitted to a physician or a nurse, who provides a feedback instantly. In fact, now there are apps like the diabetes pilot Pro, which can suggest a wide range of food and also track blood glucose levels over weeks and months.
Over 200 mobile apps are available not only to help physicians make a diagnosis of skin rash but also tell patients what they may have. In fact with some apps, the skin rash can be photographed and then scanned with the apps for assessment of cancer risk. Answers are provided within a few seconds or minutes.
There are apps that can even perform an ECG or take blood pressure readings. The ECG apps has even been approved by the FDA for use by consumers. The data from the apps is quickly analyzed, plotted on a graph and displayed on the screen. For people with heart rhythm disorders like atrial fibrillation, this can be life saving.
Some mobile apps available in where one can request a physician to come to the home for an emergency. For example if a patient has cut his hand or has twisted his ankle, the physician can come home and not only suture the laceration but also apply a cast saving a lot of money from going to the emergency room.
In the last few years, even bigger changes have been developed with smartphones; now the patient can wear a wireless sensor that measures oxygen and glucose levels, blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm. In fact, if you suspect that your child has an ear infection, there is a smartphone attachment that lets you look in the ear drum without making an unnecessary trip to the pediatrician or the emergency room.
This is just the tip of the iceberg and experts say that hi-tech ways of assessing health risks are going to improve. Today many obese individual now use smartPhones to monitor their body weight and body mass index, the amount of exercise they perform and calories burnt.
Researchers have developed many other sensors like the microchip lens that measures curvature of the cornea in patients with glaucoma and relays information to a sensor on the smartPhone. This will tell the patient when to apply the eye drops. As a result many emergency rooms are now going to become data surveillance centers for remote monitoring of patients.
About the app
Smartphones have radically changed our lives, especially when it comes to health. With a predicted shortage of physicians globally, the expansion of “do it yourself assessment of risks” may be an answer. However, experts warn that too much reliance on apps and smartphones may not be realistic. No matter how Hi-tech healthcare becomes, it is unlikely that “doctor-less medicine” will ever become a reality. In medicine, just looking at numbers and graphs only tells a small story- there is something called clinical reasoning which plays a major role in diagnosis- and this can only made by a trained medical doctor.