Between work, kids, friends and family, there’s no time to feel ill, let alone go to the doctor. It’s no wonder a 2011 Marist Poll found that nearly four in 10 Americans self-diagnose using the Web. But how qualified are these online sources? Should we leave our well-being in the hands of the Internet?
The term “telehealth” refers to the use of digital information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance health care and health-related education, according to the Health Resources Services Administration. Deloitte reported that health information is the fastest-growing content category for U.S. mobile users, increasing to 18.5 million mobile users in 2011. Advances in mobile technology are supporting this increased consumer engagement in wellness, prevention and treatment programs, as well as chronic disease management.
The Telehealth Modernization Act hopes to enforce high standards of mobile health care technology. Introduced late last year and backed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the legislation pushes to unify state telehealth standards and enforce that telehealth consults follow the standard procedures for diagnosis and treatment. Deloitte expects the number of people engaging in telehealth activities will double in the next two years.
Self Diagnosing Online — No Patience? No Problem.
Waiting is always a chore. But when it comes to your health, a minute seems like a lifetime. Up-and-coming tech tools empower patients to make educated health decisions based on at-home self-evaluations. Companies like Scanadu perfect the art of self-diagnosis. The Scanaflo kit provides an at-home urine test designed to give early information about your liver, kidneys, urinary tract or metabolism. From there, the Scanaflo smartphone app helps users process the test results, understand the diagnosis and store the information. Scanadu, among other companies, supports early detection of potentially life-threatening ailments and paves the way toward a more efficient and patient-centered health care system.
The New Waiting Room
Forget sterile, bleak and flu-ridden waiting rooms. Today’s facilities are cozy, carefully decorated and might even include a family dog. Virtual doctor visits make going to the doctor a one-click operation. Sick on your honeymoon? Ill while working overseas? Or simply avoiding costly doctor visits? Sites like MeMD enable users to log on for a professional diagnosis. Their team of qualified health care providers include certified physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. In addition to gaining an accurate diagnosis, MeMD also provides a personalized treatment plan and can issue prescriptions.
When it comes to physical fitness, sometimes we need that extra vote of confidence to get us off the couch. Fitbit helps users monitor their health and reach fitness goals via digital technology. More than a data keeper, research by Deloitte reveals real-time data collection is expected to result in more precise and individually targeted therapies. By using the personal sensor data to exchange health habits and nutrition regimens, mobile health apps strengthen the patient and physician relationship. Health apps and gadgets also expand the reach of accountability by leveraging social networks and motivate individual behavior. Team challenges, instant results and opportunities for virtual bragging rights keep good health at the top of the user’s mind.
About the Author: William Derosa is a freelance writer, health care practitioner, and fitness expert.