Is there a doctor in the phone?, Doktor, docteur, dottore

Is there a doctor in the phone?

That traditional face-to-face relationship between doctor and patient is being upset by smartphones, sensors, and wearable IoT technologies. After all, people have nothing to lose but a wait in line … and their private data.

It all goes back to the Medical Myth; the belief that for real medical care, a patient should go to the doctor for an in-depth – yet very personal visit. Forged over the course of years, this doctor knows what is weighing the patient down and the patient trusts in that expert opinion.

But, this myth is slowly dying. While close doctor-patient relationships have happened in the past, the reality is that a modern doctor is often just a technician that plugs the patient in for a battery of tests, interprets the results, and subsequently writes out prescriptions for more tests and medication. And that is the optimal view. Don’t forget the time lag for getting into the doctor’s office in the first place. The whole interaction resembles the emissions testing for an automobile – only the process for my car was much simpler in regards to setting an appointment, finding the place, and payment.

It’s all in your hands

The Medical Industrial Complex is getting turned on its head by the combination of wearable technology and smartphones. Why go to a doctor’s office for a test when the testing can be done at home, in a much more natural environment, and even more accurately with a series of always-on measurements? Even better, what about using a device you already have to either do the testing or relay this information to the experts?

Today’s apps are just the start

The majority of health apps already on the market are simply encyclopedias or scheduling calendars. And, they can be extremely valuable. When an event occurs, it is useful to have the Red Cross First Aid app at your fingertips for immediate guidance or an in-depth analysis from John Hopkins. Keeping track of medicines and prescriptions might also be easier – especially for elderly patients – with CareZone. After all, nothing like a nice reminder to take those pills.

Your doctor is in the cloud

But these are really Old School – and their usability is limited. The health world wants to move on from providing a relatively static array of information to giving users access to a dynamic range of services in three major areas:

  1. Order charts and a doctor visit – While medical services are a bit more complex than pizza, ordering medication and keeping track of charts and tests can now be done with specialized apps like MyChart. You can even order a house visit by a doctor with Heal and watch them approach on your smartphone – just like Uber.
  2. Telehealth visits – Why go to the doctor and sit next to other sick people? And what happens if a bug strikes when you are far, far away from your usual doctor and all you really need is some medication. Some studies show that telehealth visits, as remote and unfriendly as they may seem, are quite cost effective. MDLive and DoctoronDemand are two of the options. Check with your insurer to see if this is an option and if they have a specific preferred provider.
  3. Online monitoring –Yes, the biggest change is with medical sensors evolving from cumbersome stand-alone appliances into clever IoT devices and/or becoming incorporated into smartphones – and we aren’t even talking about Apple and its new heart sensor patent.

Thinking inside the box

Just look at My-Signals. It’s a cool little box with places for over ten health sensors to get plugged into the sides. The collected information on up to 15 biometric parameters goes out through either the nearby Wi-Fi network – or a smartphone. Your choice of either Android or iPhone.

But, as My-Signals explains on their website, they are really not for the DIY market – they are a development platform with both software and hardware options. Stay tuned for this approach – sensors, online access, and smartphones – to be applied to the health arena.

Let the data flow every which way

What’s the difference when you pick up an IoT device at the local department store – and the very same device as covered by your insurer? Data protection – at least in the USA. Officially sanctioned devices have their data covered by HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). This higher bar for data protection in the cloud just might be a reason for insurance related devices to have a higher purchase cost.

But it’s not as simple as one little HIPPA. In the Czech Republic, as just one little example of an EU country, there are three types of regulations covering cloud issues in the healthcare sector. In addition to data protection legislation, there is healthcare sector-specific legislation, for example covering medical records, and also legislation on electronic prescriptions. Complicated? You haven’t seen anything yet. As Jana Pattynova, a lawyer at Pierstone wrote in her recent blog post on this topic, “The broad-scale impact of this move to electronic systems on costs and health outcomes is just beginning to be felt.”

It’s not just the Czech Republic. It’s everywhere. Have a healthy – and private – swipe at your smartphone.

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As a PR Consultant and journalist, Frink has covered IT security issues for a number of security software firms, as well as provided reviews and insight on the beer and automotive industries (but usually not at the same time). Otherwise, he’s known for making a great bowl of popcorn and extraordinary messes in a kitchen.