Health Care Trends With a Social Media Twist
At the end of my last doctor's appointment, my physician handed me slip of paper with instructions to download an app. The half sheet of paper directed me to the app in the iTunes store (with a QR code, no less) and had my doctor's identification number printed in bold under the app name - Gazelle.
"For your blood test results," he said.
I downloaded the app in the small waiting period between him leaving the room and the nurse coming in to take my blood. Days later, the signature iPhone alert appeared in the right hand corner of Gazelle's icon. Within seconds I opened the app and had my results in the palm of my hand.
Rewinding a few years, back before my iPhone but in the early days of smartphones, I had gone to another doctor for the same test. "Everything seemed fine," he said. But he'd call me if it wasn't.
Thankfully, I never got that call from my doctor. But I never got a confirmation that everything was fine either. Something that left me uneasy at the time, but in retrospect, seems archaic. In an age where I can Google anything, check my bank balance, and pay my cell phone bill in seconds, why shouldn't I have that same access to information about my health?
Thankfully, as the New York Times points out in their latest article, Coming Next: Using an App as Prescribed, those dark ages may be coming to an end. Not only are your test results available via your mobile phone, but now more than ever, doctors are using apps. and mobile devices to help patients actively manage their care.
As the article points out, the FDA is still grappling with the regulation of these apps. While some, such as my handy Gazelle app, simply share information, others, such as the WellDoc Diabetes Manager mentioned in the article do much more than that - they help patients manage chronic conditions, communicate important info to their doctors and even give health advice to the user. That app is one of only 10 applications currently approved by the FDA.
The line between medical device and app is a blurry one, but nonetheless, the progress being made in mobile health management is exciting. As a patient, I look forward to seeing what develops between now and my next doctor's appointment that will help me better manage my own health.