Doctors – The World Is Now Mobile. Do You Have A Plan To Keep Up?

The smartphone has taken over the world and India is no exception. According to Indian Telecom statistics from TRAI, India’s mobile subscriber base has crossed the 1 billion mark in 2016. Researchers from Gartner estimate that in the next couple of years, a large chunk of these mobile subscribers will move to a smartphone. According to a report by Counterpoint Research, India has over 220 million active smartphones and has surpassed the US smartphone market. With this smartphone proliferation, there also has been an incremental adoption of mobile applications. In 2016 alone, Indians downloaded over 6 million mobile applications, up from 3.5 billion in 2015, and beat the US app market. As the world is getting increasingly concentrated into the palms of the consumers, healthcare applications too are finding space on the smartphone screens. As the consumerisation of healthcare increases, doctors too are looking towards mobile applications to increase efficiencies and productivity and foster better patient engagement.

A good mobile health application has to serve as a common platform where the patients, who are the consumers of healthcare can connect with the healthcare provider, the doctor. Given the increasing emphasis on digitisation, mobile apps serve as the perfect medium that bridge the gap between the patients and the doctors. The average mobile data consumption is also increasing in India and Ericsson estimates that it will account for 99% of total traffic from mobile phones by 2021 increasing fivefold from 2015. This increase in mobile data use is only going to further fuel the app economy.

Search Doctors:

Patients too are turning towards mobile to address their healthcare queries. A large number of people turn to their mobile devices to search for doctors and look for diagnostic services etc. What is becoming apparent is that just as the world turns to mobile to managing their banking and finance, and retail etc. needs, it is also turning to mobile and mobile applications to address their healthcare needs.

Patient Medical History Management:

With the rise of high-speed networks, both patients and doctors can look at the mobile app for a more integrated healthcare experience. A good mobile application can store the health history of an individual and allow anywhere, anytime access. This can be of help if an individual requires medical assistance when he/she is travelling or does not have access to hard copies of the health records. Mobile apps can be used to store all health-related data in the form of prescriptions, health records, lab reports, X-Rays, and scans etc. All health records can be easily stored in the mobile app and can be accessed when needed. The patients can choose to provide access to these medical records to specific doctors enabling the doctors to offer better patient care.

Better Patient Management:

For doctors, managing and maintaining mountains of health records, cases, and patient information can prove to be a gargantuan challenge. Since most doctors are connected with more than one hospital and usually run more than one clinic, having access to patient records and cases when they need to becomes critical. In this age of technology, mobile apps make it easier to read up on cases, take a look at reports and lab results when they are on the go. They can use the mobile app for drug and disease research, store related research information and identify other reliable sources for consultations. Having a centralised repository of patient information can assist them in better patient management as all appointments, feedbacks, case notes can be stored easily in one place and accessed at convenience.

Improve Efficiency:

Mobile apps can also make practice management easier and more efficient. Since all the information regarding the patient is stored in a central repository, there is no time wasted in retracing steps and the time spent with the patient can be used more productively. They can also use the mobile app to manage the administrative concerns of the different clinics, manage multiple calendars, streamline case management, referral management etc. easily. Along with this, they can also share files with the concerned parties.

Analytics:

With a good mobile app which offers analytics feature, doctors can assess the performance of their clinics, identify factors that contribute to recurring ailments, assess which tests are being done more frequently etc.

Better Compliance:

Given the increasingly complex and stringent compliance landscape, finance management capabilities of a mobile app can help the doctors remain on the right side of the regulatory landscape by easily documenting all incomes, outflows and finance records.

Better Patient Interaction:

Mobile apps also make consultations easier. Using the app both, doctor and patient can connect with one another, exchange basic information, and complete the first stage of consultation which primarily revolves around information gathering. They can decide on the course of action that needs to be taken and when they meet physically, the meeting then becomes more productive and time-efficient. Considering the low patient and practitioner ratio in India, this feature can be of great advantage to both the parties.

Patient Engagement:

Doctors can also help patients manage their health with the help of mobile apps post discharge from hospitals, remain connected with patients post operations easily, assist in chronic disease management and send timely reminders to their patients to make health care more manageable and increase patient engagement and patient satisfaction.

Most doctors today are using their mobile to check emails and messages from patients. To leverage the mobile revolution to their advantage, all they need to do is look at a comprehensive mobile app to address the medical needs of their patients. The convenience of the mobile app not only benefits the doctor but also benefits the patients greatly.

 

How Digital Health Technology Is Changing Heart Health

Blame it on rising stress levels, erratic lifestyles, or anything else you can think of, but there is no getting away from the fact that heart health is causing much concern for people across the globe. Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) are affecting young and old and are the number one cause of deaths – approximately 17.5 million people died from CVD (i.e. 31% of all global deaths) in 2012. Such striking figures explain why it is all the more necessary to become aware of the reality and start taking productive steps towards countering the risk factors.

Access to Health Data

Thankfully, with the advent of technology, it can be easy to at least have access to one’s health data. To think of it, it is actually the biggest benefit to be gained from technology, especially digitisation. Digital health technologies allow a person to stay informed of vital stats and then if need be, seek medical assistance. For instance, there is Mobile Health or mHealth as it is popularly known. It involves making use of mobile communication devices to stay informed of any health changes occurring in the body. One can use mobile apps to keep a track of dietary habits, sleep patterns, and fitness levels. As more and more people opt for better Internet connectivity through 3G and 4G networks and the reach of smartphones expands further, the reach of mHealth or rather digital health is rapidly increasing.

Unlike the typical perception of technology being too complicated, several of these health technology apps are simple to navigate. There is the largely popular Fitbit to track fitness progress, smart watches which can be paired with heart monitors, weighing scales, and other Bluetooth-enabled devices for tracking health data, and finally the mobile text messaging interventions (TMIs). Such wearable technology is proving to be highly resourceful for bettering the heart health of millions of people. So much so, that according to the World Economic Forum by 2022, one in every 10 people will be wearing clothes connected to the Internet or the ‘wearable Internet. This has to mean that digitising the health world is feasible.

Healthcare has become participatory

How is then digital technology really helpful?

  • First, there is real-time data available and it can be corroborated with a person’s previous health records. Thus, understanding why a health scare might have occurred is quicker for a doctor or at other times, preventive measures can already be employed.
  • Digital technology allows the doctors to gather data, diagnose, identify possible lacunae, etc. even before the patient arrives at the hospital. So there is a considerable saving of precious time.
  • Some medical practitioners use tablets to track and share data with other teams when working on an emergency. Apart from doctors, even for say a common man, the technologies available in the market can make understanding the readings/ statistics undemanding. As a result, health management can become possible even at home, making the person take a step towards dealing with CVD a little sooner.
  • Since the data is very specific to a particular patient, it assists the healthcare practitioners to provide an accurate diagnosis. It then further implies receiving personalised treatments based on the individual health records.

Remote Health Monitoring

Remote Patient Monitoring or RPM includes communication gadgets as well as tools for measuring medications such as glucose monitoring, oxygen saturation measurements, etc. Deploying RPM ensures that patients can be closely watched for their health in the comfortable confines of their home. These tools check for all the vital parameters without bothering or being too obtrusive and thus, help in creating a stress-free environment. Ideally, RPM directly delivers actionable data to the medical practitioners who can then alter the treatment according to the reports they keep on receiving. Especially in the case of CVD, RPM has proved to be highly successful for patients suffering from congestive heart failure and those with implanted cardiac rhythm devices.

Personalised Medicines

Unlike cancer, genomics has not progressed much for CVD. However, the genome is an important factor when considering treatment for a patient suffering from CVD. Thanks to the digital means of gathering individual health information, doctors can now consider providing specific treatment depending on pathology, raw digital data sets from genomics, imaging, etc. Then there is also Artificial Intelligence or AI which, when combined with genomics, can greatly help in preventing and treating CVD. Since CVD can be connected to a person’s lifestyle, it is a huge boon to be able to decide on a personlised treatment plan based on genomics.

Digital health technology makes life simpler and more convenient. It can make the healthcare sector efficient and effective, reaching out to a vast number of people simultaneously. This sector is not just limited to doctors and patients but also includes pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and the medical devices manufacturing companies. But most importantly, it gives an individual the option to make informed choices. Especially for CVD, it is bound to play a major role in the area of prevention. It is for the best then that digital health technologies need to be more explored and exploited to ensure a healthy heart.

The Shifting Goalposts Of Popular Health Parameters And What Those Mean For Us

Here’s the irony we all seem to live with – while technology is giving us more and more opportunities to stay ahead of time, somewhere it is also making us too dependent on circumstances. The changing focus on health concerns rightly compliments this argument. While every person, irrespective of profession and gender, ideally needs to take care of health and stay fit, this is all the more true for working professionals who deal with long and stressful work hours. Consequently, diabetes, cholesterol, and thyroid top the list of most common health concerns faced by the working class.

Change in Health Parameters

Earlier the parameter set to identify if a person was diabetic, for example, was if the fasting blood sugar level was above 140 (i.e. 140 milligrams of glucose per decilitre of blood). However, in 1997, the Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus brought down the number to 126. This was probably more from a preventive point of view wherein; experts felt that sooner a condition was treated better the chances of a person from avoiding the dreaded health condition altogether. Unfortunately, this decision meant that all of a sudden almost 1.6 million people who were otherwise “healthy” (since their blood sugar level was in the previous good range of 126-140) suddenly were declared diabetic. The same goes for measuring cholesterol. While the cholesterol level earlier was considered a risk at 300, over the years as research progressed it came down to 240 and eventually has settled at 200, thus bringing in almost 42 million people in the category of high cholesterol patients.

The other health problem which is seen to greatly impact the population is thyroid. Thyroid, too, was always a concern but never with the same gravity that it demands now. Hypothyroidism affects about 4-5% of the people across the globe and in India, one in ten adults go through it. Statistics state that women are much more at a risk and need to take precautions from early on. Such numbers further promote research and force the medical fraternity to take the results even more seriously. However, the more focus the problems get, the more the number of people seem to “suffer” from it.

Change in the Treatment Outlook

As a result, the treatment patterns also have considerably undergone a change. Everyone now stresses on preventive measures vis-à-vis earlier times when a health problem was treated as and when it occurred. It could be because of the fact that since there is so less time to spare, people prefer taking extra cautions to stay healthy rather than later spend time making visits to a doctor. From the doctors’ perspective, they would prefer avoiding an unwarranted health scare by prescribing medicines to counter a possible situation than having to deal with it at a later stage. It also implies monetary profits for the healthcare business sector. That makes the increasingly lowered threshold levels slightly difficult to accept. But for the common man, the risk seems too great compared to money spent.

Resultant Situation

More importantly, what this situation has resulted in is an over-cautious generation. Lowered ideal health range levels may make people take cognisance of their eating habits, exercise routines, and so on. But they also forget the fact that excessively worrying about a certain health aspect will not take away the problem entirely; while cholesterol is the primary cause of a heart attack it can also occur due to unhealthy lifestyles, smoking, etc. Another example is of the BMI (Body Mass Index). In the beginning, BMI was essentially used as a measure for body weight, and, thus, to basically remain in the healthy bracket. It helped in predicting cardiovascular diseases or nutritional competencies. Now, as with other health parameters expanding their scope, so has this simple figure. Health specialists have lately arrived at a Waist-Hip Ratio (WHR) which when used along with the BMI apparently better predicts more serious disorders such as diabetes, lipid problems, atherosclerosis, and so on.

In some ways, this sounds greatly helpful. Yet, it is also important to remember that over-diagnosis can be problematic as well. Imagine the number of medicines one consumes these days. Somewhere it makes the body immune to certain strains of those medicines and hence when the real need arises, it is doubtful if that medicine will really have a positive effect. Many times, people even ignore the side effects of taking extra medications, just to ward off a future possible concern. The number of treatments available is endless as well. It is thus up to the educated us to decide whether we will allow ourselves to be supposedly called “unhealthy” and where to stop in this vicious circle.

 

5 Technologies That Are Finding Their Home In Modern Clinics

In a doctor’s overscheduled life, the one thing that has elevated premium is ‘time’. Hospital visits, clinics, surgeries, and paperwork are just a few of the things that fill up a doctor’s day. With little or no time left in hand after doing the most important thing that they do, that is to look after their patients, managing a doctor’s diary is no mean feat. However, given the time that we are in, technology is making itself quite comfortable in the doctor’s clinic and helping that ecosystem become more organised, sorted and productive, which, at the end of the day, is making the life of the doctor easier to manage. In this blog, we take a look at five technologies that are making their home in modern day clinics and helping them function better, smarter and with greater efficiency

Appointment Management System

Managing multiple calendars for appointment management is a time-consuming task, one that is prone to the errors of overscheduling which leads to poor time management. Modern day clinics are leveraging appointment management applications that give them a bird’s eye view of the doctor’s schedule and helps them plan, schedule and organise patient appointment better and avoid overlaps. Since most doctors usually have more than one clinic to run, with the help of such a system scheduling and re-scheduling of appointments can be done with greater efficiency and each clinic can keep track of the daily appointment schedule without the burden of unnecessary overlaps.

Patient Data Management

In order to enhance the quality of care and improve patient outcomes, patient data management systems are being leveraged not only by large hospitals but smaller clinics as well. Having a central data repository that contains all the relevant patient information can be a huge boon for the doctors. There are so many times that the doctor and patient’s time is rendered unproductive because the patient is not able to provide some relevant report or health-related information at the time of the appointment. Having a record of all reports, x-rays, blood work, scans, lab reports, and other such test results and patient history etc. in one central database that can be accessed anytime, anywhere ensures that the time spent with the patient is productive and constructive and unnecessary delays are avoided at all costs.

Smartphones aka mHealth

Since smartphones today are being used for everything from managing your banking and finance activities to shopping, why should healthcare be left behind? Doctors today are using their smartphone for a lot more activities than just checking their emails. Healthcare applications that allow them to manage their practice, access patient data and health records, check their clinic’s finances, referrals and resource utilisation etc. are witnessing increased adoption. With the help of technologies such as the cloud, all the information that a doctor could want to ensure that his/her practice is running smoothly is now readily accessible at their fingertips through their smartphone. Utilising such integrated healthcare management applications is helping doctors manage their time better as they can access any piece of information that they want, when they want, irrespective of where they are.

Big Data Analytics

Big Data has generated a lot of hype and the healthcare industry is no stranger to this technology. While for a decade or so, big data adoption was done primarily by larger medical outfits and pharma companies to improve their outcomes, accelerate innovation and drive research, big data analytics is now making its home in modern day clinics as well. Such clinics are utilising data analytics to meet their analytics and reporting needs and improve patient outcomes. For example, with the help of big data analytics, clinics dig deep into patient data and lab results to identify trends in a year when a particular ailment strikes more viciously than others. It can also help them identify patients who are ‘at-risk’ for these ailments and help them take preventive action. Data analytics is also being used in clinics to analyse the relationships between treatment plans and diagnostics, identify potential treatment plans, establish benchmarks for quality, optimise operational workflow management and also create data-driven patient population lists.

AI Diagnostics

While computers and Artificial Intelligence cannot replace doctors, they most certainly can help the doctors by providing them with clinically relevant data in real-time to better patient outcomes. Diagnostic AI systems are already in use in some modern day clinics and use biometric data clubbed with the patients’ health data to assess the conversation between the doctor and patient and make notes and suggest treatment plans. AI systems also send pop-up notifications to the doctor’s phones when they see that a particular medication might not work for a person for some reason such as a genetic trait. This allows the doctor to change the prescribed medication quickly. These systems can also help doctors identify which patients are more likely to require certain medications in the future and assess the risks associated with alternate medications etc.

Just like hospital management systems have made hospital operations better and have significantly helped in improving patient outcomes, adopting technology in the modern day clinic is only going to improve efficiencies, help doctors win the race against time, and enable them to keep their focus on the singularly most important facet of the entire healthcare ecosystem – the patient.

It’s a Myth that Plastic Surgery is Just for Vanity

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear plastic surgery? Nose jobs, liposuction, breast implants? If you associate plastic surgery with these (now alarmingly) common procedures, you are not alone. There is a rise in cosmetic surgeries on popular celebrities, both men and women today. So, many wrongly believe plastic surgery is just for vanity, only a luxury for the rich and the famous. That is not true.

Cosmetic Vs Plastic Surgery

Many use the names interchangeably and wrongly assume that both are the same things. However closely related they may be, cosmetic and plastic surgery both have different goals.

Cosmetic surgery, as the name implies, is only focused on improving the appearance. Breast augmentations, liposuction, Botox and tummy tucks all fall under this category. Cosmetic surgery is generally not covered by the insurance.

Plastic surgery is primarily focused on the repair or reconstruction of dysfunctional body parts so that the person undergoing the procedure may live better. Burn repair surgery, hand surgery or scar revision surgery etc. fall under this category. Plastic surgery is expensive, but for the right reasons, it can be covered by your insurance.

Women and Plastic Surgery

Women with breast cancer may have to undergo a mastectomy but not all women with mastectomy will pursue breast reconstruction. In another scenario, some women want breast reduction to help reduce chronic back pains.  Either way, plastic surgeons closely work with such cases. While this may not be medically necessary, it helps women enhance their quality of life. Although it is a part of it, plastic surgery is not just to enhance a person’s appearance or beauty. In many ways, surgical enhancements develop into a medical necessity.

Check out the following cases where it is not only medically essential but proves that plastic surgery is not just for vanity.

Skin Cancer

Plastic surgeons work closely with people with many types of skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, etc. The surgeon first removes all the skin affected by cancer. Then reconstruction is performed which includes sutures or skin graft – which is the process of replacing skin with skin from another part of the body. This is an extremely intricate procedure.

Dog Bites

Plastic surgery is key for victims of a dog attacks. It aids proper healing and avoids the risk of skin infections and scarring if treated within the 12-24 hours. Bites that cause serious injuries to the face as those incurred in car accidents may also need plastic surgery.

Face Reconstruction

A severely injured soldier also gets help from the plastic surgeon. The treatment is not just to fix or improve the external look of the person. Plastic surgery helps improve the soldier’s quality of life. They can look in the mirror and not be reminded of the trauma they underwent. The surgery also protects the soldier from stranger’s reactions to the injuries, thus improving their self-esteem.

Deviated Septum

A nasal septum is normally the straight midline of the nose that divides the nose passageway into equal halves. A deviated septum is a severely shifted midline. A person having it may have heavy snoring, chronic sinus infections, nosebleeds, headaches or nasal congestion. Septoplasty is an invasive procedure performed by a plastic surgeon so there is no bruising on the outside of the nose.

Birth Defects

Babies born with a cleft palate or deformed upper lip are unable to nurse or suck the right way. This is a type of birth defect which requires plastic surgery to reconstruct the lip. Others with facial bone defects require plastic surgery not only to enhance their look but to improve the way they eat, breathe and talk too.

Eye Lifts

Some women who still want to wear eyeshadow and look young, go for eyelid procedures. However, eye lifts are medically necessary if the dropping of the eyes interferes with the person’s ability to see. Insurances generally cover the latter case.

Patients who are looking for a surgeon for either cosmetic or plastic surgery procedures should always check out the doctor’s specific certifications and if he or she is a member of the Association of Plastic Surgeons of India. There is absolutely no harm is talking to other people who have undergone a similar procedure to know how exactly it works, what to expect and what not to expect.