How can patients help doctors deliver better care?

Imagine a patient comes into your office and tells you that she has been experiencing a weird sensation in her arms, accompanied by a rash. The rash is only present when the sensation occurs, and it only happens once or twice a week. You run a blood test and everything appears to be normal. You ask the patient to keep track of the symptoms and come back in two weeks. Fourteen days later, she returns, but there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to when the symptoms occur, and you are no closer to figuring out what the problem is.

Though we live in a time when Google can see into your backyard, the digital consumer-oriented innovations that we work with every day have not yet made their way into the health care system—at least not where mainstream medicine is concerned. But, due to the pressure to move toward an outcome-based health care model, these technologies are starting to evolve and will soon play an integral role in the doctor-patient relationship.

Wearables for Health

With the introduction of Fitbits and Misfits, the number of wearables has skyrocketed over the last few years. Wearable technology focuses on tracking fitness-related measurements, such as how many steps you’ve taken or how many calories you’ve burned. While these are important things to be aware of, health care providers would like to see more, such as a wearable that monitors blood sugar levels or informs the wearer of blood pressure peaks and valleys.

While this may seem like the science of the future, companies in the health care sector have already begun incorporating technologies like this. We recently partnered with Self Care Catalysts, a patient-centered analytic company, to support its Health Storylines program, which offers a tool that allows patients to manage their care, record their symptoms, and track key medical information. Once the app configures a patient’s baseline, it offers insights to improve health decisions and, in the long run, form to a healthier lifestyle.

Another smartphone app, CaptureProof, allows patients and doctors to communicate with one another via pictures and videos. For example, when the woman’s rash appeared in the aforementioned example, she could snap a picture of it and share it with her doctor. Using the app, she would be able to record other information, such as changes in body temperature and general well-being. The app enables physicians to track patients’ information over time, providing key data that they may not have been able to gather to otherwise.

Another innovative technological wearable is the CarePredict Tempo. Designed for monitoring at-home patients, it anticipates the wearer’s regular behavior, including movement and sleep. When something abnormal, such as waking and moving at 2 a.m. occurs, the device alerts the caregiver. These types of devices allow people who need constant care to stay in their own homes rather than being forced to relocate to an assisted living facility.

As a result of these new advancements in technology, people are able to better communicate with doctors, require fewer appointments, save more money, and get diagnosed more accurately and quickly. These technological advancements have shown that when it comes to incorporating health-related apps in the doctor’s office, the sky is the limit.

Other Outcome-Based Innovations

Other outcome-based innovations that are anticipated to hit the health care market include tools that help patients overcome obstacles, such as arranging transportation for the elderly, consulting a doctor via tele-health appointments, and scheduling appointments digitally. These advances are predicted to make obtaining care easier, alleviate financial worries, and decrease stress for both patient and physician. Imagine being able to get an antibiotic for a sinus infection after a teleconference with the nurse or doctor instead of having to take time off of work for an appointment. Or consider a world in which a teenager diagnosed with type 1 diabetes no longer has to prick her finger multiple times a day to check insulin levels. For post-op appointments, an app could provide the doctor with direct access to the patient’s information, making it easier to decide whether an in-person follow-up appointment was necessary.

The same technological innovations that we use on our smart phone every day have finally made their way into the doctor’s office, creating a more efficient health care system. From wearables to apps, the possibilities are limitless. Soon, we won’t have to leave the comfort of our home to have our medical needs met.