The following GUEST POST describes recent innovations in devices that improve the way healthcare providers and patients with chronic illnesses can interact.
Mobile health applications are making it easier for doctors to disseminate care, affording efficiency in the office as well as lessening the amount of times that chronically ill individuals need to visit. This has the potential to be a huge resource for people working and needing to manage chronic health problems.
Thanks to a number of developments in telemedicine, managing chronic health conditions is becoming less burdensome. Doctors and patients are able to use technology to monitor various ailments through a range of apps, upload services, and web-based chatting and messaging programs.
While one-on-one care is still essential, these tools mean that the time between appointments can be expanded. And the time in the doctor’s office can be more efficient, as well. People who are just beginning to stabilize their conditions and are returning to work can find telemedicine indispensable. It allows them to stay on top of their health without the constant interruption that more frequent doctor’s visits imposes. Establishing a routine can be a critical part of recovery, and the ability to communicate and check in remotely is what makes this so seamless for so many.
Telemedicine incorporates a broad range of technologies. Ideally, it combines electronic health records and digitized test results with online interfaces that allow for at-home monitoring and medical check-ins. These features are increasingly making use of mobile phone apps. Patients with smartphones can download apps that are specific to their condition, then use the phone’s features to track and monitor their progress. A number of programs will connect to other devices like heart rate monitors and blood sugar tests, wirelessly receiving and processing the data in order to help patients stay informed about their health status.
When the app notices a problem, it can prompt the patient to call for a consultation. It might even dial the number for the nurse on call. Most of the time, the apps automatically send data to nurses as well. This information becomes a part of the patient’s health record and alerts medical staff of problems the patient might be missing or ignoring. In this way, patients can avoid disrupting their schedules for “maintenance” appointments, but can get the help they need when they need it.
It is important to remember that apps are not foolproof. There is very little regulation of the health app field. This means that almost any developer can produce and sell a health-related app — without having actually tested it with real patients. Obviously, relying on a program that has been based on profits than actually facilitate care can have devastating consequences for those with chronic illnesses.
Another problem arises when it comes to choice. Unless a physician or nurse actually recommends a certain app by name, patients may find themselves lost in a sea of possibilities.
What follows are some recommended apps:
• Apps for heart disease include WANDA, Heart Disease Check, Pam+, ECG Guide, and AirStrip, among a great many others.
• Patients with MS can choose from an equally vast selection, including My MS Manager, The Multiple Sclerosis Diagnostic and Management App, and MS 3Dme.
• Diabetics can download apps including OnTrack Diabetes, dLife, Glucose Buddy, and Fooducate, among hundreds more.
• Tracking breast cancer care can be done with, among others, Breast Cancer Diagnosis Guide, Breast Cancer: Beyond the Shock, and Keep a Breast.
• Colon cancer apps are also prolific, including CollabRX, Colonoscopy Prep Assistant, My CRC Connections, and My Colon Cancer Coach.
Healthcare apps have the potential to save patients time (in unnecessary tests) and money (in co-pays). In order for these benefits to be realized, however, apps must be used with caution and always with at least the knowledge of a doctor or registered nurse. Technology can be a blessing but can also be dangerous when used to replace in-person consultations. People with chronic medical conditions should be careful to use telemedicine only to enhance their regular care, not to supersede it.
Charlotte Kellogg, author of today’s post, writes about nursing education at OnlineNursingPrograms.com, an educational resource for students on how nursing inspires change in the healthcare system.