4 Ways Smartphones Can Help Patients and Doctors Save Valuable Time

The past couple of years have seen the monumental impact that the smartphone has had on our everyday lives. From banking to retail, to manufacturing…there is hardly an industry that has not been touched by the smartphone revolution. Healthcare is no different. The smartphone has made inroads into the healthcare segment to improve efficiencies and aid decision-making. Modern-day healthcare mobile apps, leveraging digital technologies, cloud computing, etc. are working towards upending every aspect of healthcare and place the doctor and the patient in the centre stage.

The smartphone revolution had also led to the consumerization of healthcare. Patients want to now take charge and be in control of their healthcare decisions, want more clarity regarding healthcare and demand value of their time. At the same time, physicians juggling multiple clinics and hospitals demand more control of their time.

In this blog, we take a look at a few ways smartphones can assists doctors and patients save valuable time.

Access to Complete Health Records

Physical documents are not only hard to manage but also prone to getting lost and can be difficult to organise. In most cases, healthcare history and health records are stored in fragments…some with a medical practitioner, some at a hospital or some at home, etc. In order to save time during a consultation, having access to the complete medical history saves both the physicians’ and the patients’ time. Mobile apps can be used to upload the patient’s complete health history, lab reports, test results, pathological reports, prescriptions, x-rays, etc. which can be securely accessed both by the doctor and the physician. No time is then lost rummaging for information since all of it is documented in an organised manner on the handy smartphone itself and can be accessed anytime, anywhere.

Clearer Communication

How many times have you, as a patient, gone and spent time waiting at a doctor’s clinic only to be told that you need to come back after conducting certain tests? Even doctors, who always are time constrained, have spent time with patients going through their records only to realise that they need to send the reports for a consult with someone else or need the patient to go for another round of tests.

The healthcare scenario is replete with such examples where better communication between the patient and doctor could help both capitalise their time and reduce time wastage. Smartphone health apps can improve the channels of communication between doctors and patients. Since all the health care records, data and information are stored and uploaded to the application, the doctors can easily access these and identify if additional investigations need to be conducted, additional consults need to be made or if the patient can be sent a message regarding any vital piece of information to manage his/her health. The doctors can also share the patients’ medical report with other doctors for consultation with just a tap on the screen which also contributes to saving a lot of time.

Further, using the smartphone, doctors can send patients automated updates regarding health management and pre and post-op management instead of having to do so physically.

With access to their health data, patients too can ask more relevant and focused questions to their doctors. They can discuss medications, side effects, health impacts of their current physical condition etc. more accurately with their doctors. This ensures that the time spent with the physician is optimised and the discussion there is result-driven.

Finance Management

Medical finances can be quite complex to manage and lead to a lot of time wastage for both, the doctor and the patient. Smartphone apps can help immensely here by keeping track of all medical expenses for the patient. Medical bills, doctors’ fees, insurance claims details, cost of lab reports, hospital reports etc. can all be stored the mobile app and accessed from the smartphone whenever required. For doctors too, mobile apps can be of great help in making finance management simpler and more organised. Instead of wasting their time managing their financial transactions and making sure that these are organised, doctors can simply use a smartphone app to centrally store and manage all financial information such as transactions, referral fees, consultation charges, clinic and hospital billings etc. easily and access them whenever needed easily.

Analyse This

Data is king. It gives us detailed and quantified insights to make better and well-informed decisions – both for the patients and the doctors. Better decisions mean better health and patient management which consequently translates to optimal time usage and lesser time wastage. Access to medical health analytics can be easy using a good smartphone app. These apps compare health history, evaluate crucial checkpoints, and reveal relevant data that gives patients intelligent insights into their current state of health. Armed with this information the patients can take preventive steps to improve their health and avoid medical problems.

Doctors also can leverage healthcare analytics to better schedule their time and take a more preventive approach to health and disease management. Analysing medical and health data can inform doctors when patients tend to get sick most, the kind of health risks emerge at which times in the year, what kind of tests are being run repeatedly, what factors are contributing to repeated ailments etc. Analytics also helps in better clinic and practice management – all of this ensure that the time at hand can be used for the best purpose.

Clearly, time today has become the ultimate commodity and a common denominator for both physicians and patients. As the smartphone becomes a ubiquitous part of our lives, it only makes sense to use it to increase the time efficiency of our healthcare interactions and make sure that the time doctors and patients have at hand is utilised in the best possible manner – in decisive conversations that make health better.

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.

 

The Dangers of Self-Medication

Nowadays, everyone feels like they have the qualities of a doctor. And hence, they often resort to self-medication. ‘Bad stomach? I know the pill for it!’ ‘Pain in the abdomen? It’s probably just acidity!’ While health issues like cough, cold, and fever can be treated at home, at times, the health issue at hand may be much bigger for which, visiting a doctor is an absolute must. The doctor is the only one who can give you a complete diagnosis of your situation and provide you with guidance regarding the steps you can take going forward, to enhance the healing process.

Self-medication is harmful due to a number of reasons. A study by Psychology Today explains that individuals tend to act as their own physicians in an attempt to handle the symptoms of the physical or mental health concern involved with it. A lot of times they want to hide their condition since going to the doctor may come across as a sign of weakness. Sometimes, they are scared or embarrassed, and at times, they simply want to avoid the expenses of getting the diagnosis of the problem from a professional. Truth is, self-medication can ruin a person’s life, the lives of others around him/her and can end up making the original situation much worse than it was.

Some of the important dangers of self-medication are:

Wrong Drug Dosage

When you decide to prescribe drugs for yourself, there is no one to tell you the right dosage for the pills you are using. Even if you have got the drug right, factors such as the dosage of the drug, how it needs to be taken, its composition and its side-effects or reactions, if any, also need to be considered. Ignorance and lack of awareness when it comes to these things can cause serious problems and can also lead to a fatality. According to a study by the non-profit group, Trust for America’s Health, nearly 52% of deaths were related to prescription drug overdoses where the patients did not even know that they have taken an overdose.

Side-effects

Many medicines tend to have side effects on your body. When you go to a physician, he gives you appropriate drugs to counter those effects and stabilize your body. He prescribes medicines keeping in mind your body type, your diet, your daily routine, etc. Self-medication, on the other hand, can lead to severe side effects such as allergic reactions, loose stools, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.

Wrong Diagnosis

One of the major things that can go wrong when you resort to self-medication is the wrong diagnosis of the disease at hand. You may be suffering from some specific symptoms and will link those to a disease that you know of. You will end up taking the medicines for it but that probably will not work. This can complicate simple situations and also make it difficult for the doctor to correctly diagnose and treat your situation at later stages.

Self-medication for Pregnant Women

This one could probably be the most dangerous kind of self-medication. Wrong moves or intake of unfamiliar drugs could cause birth defects and congenital anomalies in the child. What the mother consumes during the pregnancy stage directly affects the child so it is very important that they find out all the information about the particular drug that they are consuming. Visiting a physician and taking his recommendations for the medicines would be the best way to go about it.

Addiction to the Wrong Drug

A lot of times, there are cases wherein a patient is taking a wrong drug and gets addicted to it. This is especially true in the case of medical conditions such as depression where the doses of the drug are very high and cause severe effects. If you are following self-medication, there is no one who can reassess the prescription for you. Strong pills and their overdose can lead to severe problems or even death. According to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 33,175 people died in 2012 due to an unintentional drug overdose.

Masking the Symptoms of a Serious Condition

The route of self-medication may also cause the patients to overlook the symptoms of a serious condition that they may be suffering from. For example, a patient may be suffering from a condition such as pneumonia but may pass it off as a case of the flu. At times, people tend to take this route to save themselves the embarrassment of being the victim of a serious disease. However, this is very harmful and the most inappropriate way of dealing with the problem.

Alternately, there are times when people tend to adopt the route of telemedicine. A lot of times, this may prove to be fruitful since it reduces the hassle of visiting the doctor in person and thus saves time and money. But where does the credibility come in? With so many portals offering medical advice, there are a lot of cases of spam and frauds. The advising authority may not have the right knowledge or skills to guide you with the best possible treatment. Carelessness and lack of precision from their end could lead to devastating results and also a case of fatality. When you are looking for doctors offering telemedicine, look for the credibility of the doctors and the portals which offer this service.

Don’t take your health very lightly. Always remember, Google is not your doctor – avoid self-medication. Always consult a doctor for the smallest of health issue. After all, the preservation of health is always easier than a cure of the disease.

 

This Is What an Integrated Healthcare Experience Looks Like

The Indian healthcare industry is very fragmented. The whole ecosystem is largely manual and paper-based. Patients, today, have to go through a lot of hassles and stages to get a proper medical care. This leads them to be frustrated and irritated owing to factors such as long wait times, specialized physicians that are not easy to get hold of, and a medical system that is not easily accessible. The overall healthcare system in our country is at a very unorganized level. Patients need to take care of all documentation and records such as reports, x-rays, prescriptions, notes from doctors etc. manually and be responsible for all of them. This is a result of the fact that we do not have one integrated platform where all the information and content can be readily available and easily accessed by patients, doctors, physicians and anyone else who may be involved in the process of the treatment.

How can an integrated healthcare experience benefit the patients?

However, in recent years, the face of healthcare industry is changing and people are coming up with more healthcare options than we have ever been exposed to. India’s healthcare system is working towards technology-enabled collaborations to incorporate advanced techniques and ideas in the processes. These introductions aim towards creating a fully integrated healthcare system which will

  • Provide comprehensive solutions to all the individual entities such as patients, doctors, physicians, clinics, hospitals, laboratories, and medical stores.
  • The application and use of such a system will enable faster and more efficient communication between patients and doctors and make the entire system more smooth.
  • The use of cloud-based and mobile-based tools for storage and access of information will make them easily accessible at any time from any device. Such an experience is what can be defined as an integrated healthcare experience.

Better patient care at lower costs

Integrated care aims at taking a more comprehensive approach offering the patients with higher-quality and more efficient care that better meets their needs.

Along with that, it also tries to reduce the costs involved in the treatment by analysing the overall situation and taking the right steps at the right time. It can work around different approaches but the ultimate aim is to provide the patients with what is best for them.

In the case of patients suffering from chronic diseases, integrated care works towards creating a symbiosis between primary and secondary care to ensure more appropriate use of health care resources. It aims towards ensuring the availability of all types of services such as physicians, specialists, nutritionists and other health professionals for patients on a single platform.

With an integrated system, patients will be able to undergo diagnostic tests and get prescriptions filled in one go. They will be able to store a complete health history of themselves as well as their families online, thus avoiding the hassle of preserving physical documents.

Smooth communication between doctors, caregivers and patients and optimised costs

Another feat integrated care works towards achieving is to improve communication between a wider range of services. This facility will allow the patients who have undergone a treatment or surgery at a hospital to get discharged at an earlier time than the usual. They will then be provided with follow-up services and appropriate care. The aim is to reduce the hospital stay once the patients no longer require close treatment, thus reducing costs and optimising the overall process.

Patient Finance and Insurance Management

Patients will be also able to keep track of their healthcare finance management by quickly accessing their insurance credentials, insurance details, reimbursement that can be claimed through their insurance by accessing all the information on their mobile phones.

 Self care

Through access to all the healthcare analytics data, the patients will be able to decrease the risk of costly emergency interventions and thus reduce the chances of death. The insights provided by the integrated healthcare management system will allow the patients to keep a constant check on their health without having to visit your doctor each time. Old patients suffering from chronic diseases will be able to easily track their medications, get medication reminders, and reduce the chances of wrong medications.

While healthcare industry has developed a lot in the recent years and has seen many technological transformations, there is always scope to develop the existing services and aim at achieving higher levels of integration. Integrated healthcare systems provide a full continuum of services in a user-friendly manner, creating a one-stop environment to eliminate the cost of intermediaries, promote wellness, and improve overall health outcomes.

 

How Doctors Can be More Engaged With Their Patients

Patient engagement can be considered the holy grail of healthcare. As healthcare providers look towards technology and tools to improve operations and costs and boost patient engagement, doctors too, are now opening up to technology use to help their patients manage their health better. However, while healthcare providers look at providing ‘value’ to the patient by utilizing technology, the essence of patient engagement in the real sense is illustrated only when the physician and the patient work together not only during times of poor health but in times of good health as well. Considering doctors are busy and pressed for time, they can leverage the same technology to stay connected with their patients and enhance the patient experience. As almost 80% of the doctors own a smartphone, they can now connect with their patients on the go.

Telemedicine

Gone are the days when the good old doctor could come for a home visit to assess your physical health. However, doctors can use Telemedicine technology to connect with patients on an ongoing basis to assess their current health conditions. In countries, such as India, where there is a huge rural population and skewed doctor-patient ratios, telemedicine can be leveraged to ensure that proper health care services reach a majority of people. In the urban landscape too, doctors can leverage telemedicine facilities to interact with patients and help them manage their health. Considering the amount of time we spend traveling from one point to another, telemedicine can be a huge boon when you just want to discuss preventive medicine or take immediate advice if a health problem needs to be addressed in the emergency room or it can wait until the next morning.

Patient Interaction Systems

Doctors can also leverage Patient Interaction Systems to improve their patient interaction. A great patient interaction system will enable two-way communication by SMS, email, and even IVR. Appointment confirmations, instant notifications and updates, post appointment messages etc. can be delivered by these systems. When doctors are proactive about their interactions with their patients, they too are more satisfied. This can improve a doctor’s online reputation as these interactions can increase patient response rates to social media and other surveys. Along with this, doctors can also send out post-consultation updates to their patients using chat and SMS services to ensure that the patient does not miss out on any vital piece of the information that he/she needs to maintain his health.

Mobile App

While mHealth has become quite popular with patients, digitally inclined doctors too are leveraging mobile apps to improve their practice. Doctors can use mobile apps to look up drug and disease information, discover other providers for consultations and referrals, find lab guides, get answers to critical clinical questions, centralize all patient related information for easy access, view and share medical information, get feedback and even monitor a patient remotely. Further mobile apps are a great way to keep track of patient appointments and avoid overlaps along with address the needs of running a practice. Practice management becomes very easy with mobile applications as all important documents are hosted in one place and are integrated. Since no time is wasted looking for previous history and other relevant information when a patient comes for a physical meeting, the doctor can utilize the time to concentrate on having a meaningful conversation and boost effective interaction with the patient.

Tutorials

We are now entering the age when patients want to leverage preventive healthcare. However, there is a serious lack of qualified information regarding the same. Most people reach out to Dr. Google to get answers to some of their pressing health care queries as they feel that their doctor might not have the time to answer their questions – They, after all, are not unwell. Doctors can become a part of this preventive healthcare drive by leveraging technology and uploading tutorials on preventive healthcare and give practical advice to people on how they can manage their health better and answer the questions that are asked regarding the topic in discussion. This information can greatly benefit the patients as they will be getting their information from a qualified and dependable source and thereby increase the scope for patient engagement.

By leveraging technology, doctors can ensure better physician-patient interactions, enable preventive health care and ensure that their patients are more involved in their personal care. High patient engagement then, just becomes a consequence of these great interactions.