Doctors go digital to help patients

Have you been to the doctor lately that whipped out an iPad to show you your x-ray kind of  like this?

By kanteronsystems via Flickr

I, for one, have. My dentist of 23 years back home in Seattle, who I insist on continuing to visit when I’m home at breaks despite living in NYC for two years now, surprised me this past winter when he  — in the same breath as boasting about his brand spanking new AARP card–  showed me my x-rays, reports and records on one of the iPads he has in each exam room.

Atlanta Dr. using our EMR via iPad

By Practice Fusion via Flickr

Doctors, just like the rest of the now digital world are realizing the merit of incorporating digital assets into everyday tasks. They can see patients, take phone calls, and answer specific questions with files at their fingertips via an iPad or smartphone.

Digital healthcare technologies to support healthcare have reshaped medical record keeping and communication with  electronic medical records, practice management systems, mobile health apps, and online medical journals. This process hasn’t been  just another byproduct of the groundswell either. In 2007, the European Commission launched the Lead Market Initiative for Europe designating ‘eHealth’ as one of the focuses, leading Europe and the US alike in understanding the importance of digital technology working seamlessly with the physical world. One doctor quoted in an article by CBS Boston, said he uses his iPad for everything from prescribing medication to educating patients about upcoming surgeries.

As Suchitra Menon of Healthcare Engagement Strategy contends the internet has also forced the healthcare industry’s communication hand with, “[the] rise [of] patient-centric healthcare, where patients are an active participant in the healthcare delivery process.”

“Patient-centric,” digital healthcare has taken particular form in prevention and lifestyle apps. According to data revealed by Float Mobile Learning:

By drchrono via Flickr

  • 40% of doctors believe that using mobile health technologies such as apps that monitor fitness and eating habits can reduce the number of office visits needed by patients.
  • About 88% of doctors are in full support of patients monitoring their health at home.
  • There are more than 10,000 medical and healthcare apps available for download in the Apple App Store, making it the third-fastest growing app category among iPhone and Android users.
  • 80%  of doctors  use smartphones and medical apps.
  • Physicians are also 250% more likely to own a tablet than other consumers.

 

Some medical providers are even giving consultations virtually via Skype and FaceTime. For example,  RingADoc, is a startup telemedicine service providing on-call doctors 24 hours a day via phone, smartphone or tablet. With a phone call or digital face time, patients can renew a prescription or get a suggested diagnosis from specific symptoms as fast as they can press the call button.

To answer some of the questions I posed in my first post, I think that all of this information arms pharmaceutical companies with a huge opportunity. By creating apps or other digital systems to access information about products and programs, doctors can easily read pharma companies’ materials and even more easily share them with patients. Being so widely used, Health and progress trackers are another great tactic to reach patients directly. These apps promote the sustained success of a  healthy lifestyle while taking specific drugs, provide patients with additional resources and foster meaningful direct relationships between pharma companies and their target markets.