dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dialing Up Your Future Healthcare

It’s amazing how far technology has come in the last fifty years - even more stunning is how fast it has been moving forward in just the last five. One device which has become ubiquitous in our society could be the true future of our healthcare: the smartphone. 

The simplest way we use our phones for more than calling is through all the great applications available to us. According to this article, “There are over 10,000 health apps in the iTunes app store, the number of Americans using smartphones for health information grew from 61 million to 75 million this year, and 88% of doctors would like patients to monitor their health at home.” Many people use apps for weight loss or fitness goals, but there others that give us, particularly as patients with chronic pain/illness, a chance to report in the moment when we are having pain, what it feels like, how and where it’s affecting us, and much more. The chronic pain management app I use is called Manage My Pain. It takes down my description of all those things, organizes any notes I’ve made, analyzes my responses to create graphs and stats, and makes it super easy to print out a complete report for my doctor. Having all this detailed information is particularly useful in determining how your treatment plan is working or whether it needs to be altered.

An app like mine can reveal so many specific details as opposed to the patient who vaguely tells the doctor their pain level is an “eleven and it hurts all the time”. There are also apps designed for particular conditions like migraines, arthritis, and diabetes as well as ones that focus entirely on chronic pain. (*See below for a few apps you can download to your smartphone to help manage your pain).

I’m not the only one who thinks this is a great option for tracking and treating pain. Just this week I discovered a study, Chronic Pain Sufferers Can Benefit from Smartphone Apps. This study divided 140 women into two groups, one with smartphones and one without. Researchers say the smartphone group reported less pain than the control group that didn’t use a smartphone app. Click on the name to read more about the results.

Before I move on, there is a free app I found which I want to feature: MediSafe Project. Taking your medication as prescribed and on schedule is vitally important for all patients. However, for some, like diabetics and heart patients, it can be a matter of life and death. A missed or delayed dose could have dire circumstances. An app called MediSafe Project was designed as the first-ever cloud-synced pillbox app that not only reminds you when it’s time to take your medication, but also sends your family, friends and caretakers alerts if you miss a dose, leveraging the power of your support system to keep you healthier. It’s a free app for iPhone and Android. I think this sounds like a great option, and I suggest you might want to make a note of it. Who knows if you, or a loved one, may have need of just such a helpful app in the future?

Technology keeps marching ahead, and though apps are fantastic, our smartphones are becoming even more useful for our health. Cardiologist Eric Topol, chief academic officer of Scripps Health, believes “the smart phone will be the hub of the future of medicine. And it will be your health-medical dashboard.” 

In an in-depth interview with NBC news, Dr. Topol talks about how wireless medicine via smartphone will make our healthcare better and cheaper. During the interview, he shows how his modified iphone makes it possible for him to take an instant cardiogram of a patient and do a portable ultrasound. Says Topol, 
     “You can take the phone and make a lab on a chip. You can do blood tests, saliva tests, urine tests, all kinds of things... through your phone. This is a powerful device.” 
I highly recommend that you watch this entire interview. It is mind-boggling to see just how much he can do with a smartphone and to hear him talk about what’s to come is incredible.

Two years ago, I started having issues with my heart. I wore a heart monitor for a week, but the problem I was having didn’t happen while I was wearing the monitor. I then had to wear a holter monitor for a whole month in order to make it possible to catch my heart acting up. It was uncomfortable, inconvenient, and expensive. Evident through Dr. Topol’s demonstration, I could have my smartphone handy and simply pull it out to record any episode when my heart rhythm was off and not have to be hooked up to a monitor all the time. I could then transmit the information instantly and if there was any life-threatening issue my doctor would be able to tell me what to do. That immediate connection to a medical professional proves, according to Dr. Topol, technology does not get in the way of the doctor/patient relationship. It may involve being face-to-face less often since a lot of office visits would be unnecessary by doing the screenings and tests remotely, saving money, time, and making diagnosis much more immediate. But he says it would be more intimate and bonded because the results of the tests are shared between doctor and patient in real time. 

I have to admit, I certainly look forward to this type of medicine with individualized screenings, remote testing, and instant connection. I never want to have to wear a heart monitor for a month again! Watching Dr. Topol talk about how wireless medicine is going to change our healthcare system really excites me. Who knows how much more technology will advance in another five years?


*Chronic Pain Applications plus one other app you might find useful

There are certainly more than three apps out there for chronic pain, but these are the ones I have heard good things about from other users besides the one I use myself. I also included one emergency app which sounds like a good idea for those of us with very serious medical conditions; it goes a few steps farther than a medical alert bracelet, though I always recommend having one of those no matter what. Consider using one of these apps to help improve your life by better managing your chronic pain:

~Manage My Pain (the one that I use)
This app has helped thousands of people better understand their symptoms and provide evidence of their pain for their doctors, insurance companies, or government agencies. It is the most effective pain management app to record, track, analyze, & share your pain. Manage My Pain is the only app that synchronizes your information in the cloud and across all your devices. Create and view your records anywhere, anytime, and from any device, while resting easy that your information will never be lost.

This app helps people with chronic pain conditions make daily health and wellness choices, so they can manage their pain smarter. From back pain to migraines, the app lets you record daily pain levels, export your pain history to PDF and email it to your doctor. You can also select doctor-approved goals from five lifestyle categories related to your pain condition(s): Food, Rest, Exercise, Mood, and Treatments, view ‘bite-sized’ tips matched with your goals and organized into the same five lifestyle categories, and read hundreds of articles, videos, slideshows and quizzes on pain management related to your condition.  Free.

Developed by a chronic pain patient and used by thousands to track chronic health conditions such as: Fibromyalgia , Headaches, Migraines, Back Pain, Rsd, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Interstitial Cystitis, Herniated Disks, Endometriosis, Peripheral Neuropathy, Lupus, Ankylosing Spondylitis and dozens of others. All with one app! It provides you with a tool that is easy to use, empowering, and effective at tracking and recording your chronic pain, pain types, pain triggers, remedies, etc.

This app is a vital tool for unexpected situations and the easiest way to aggregate all of your most critical information. Store your blood type, allergies, medications, any notes, and emergency contacts — if your phone is found on you, emergency technicians will be able to view your vital stats in a heartbeat. A personalized large tile increases visibility on your start screen, while a personalized lock screen displays emergency contacts even if your phone is locked. Emergency Kit outperforms standard ICE (in case of emergency) kits because of the assortment of tools and educational information also included. Turn your phone into an SOS light beacon, send out an emergency text message or email with your GPS coordinates, or learn how to treat different injuries. Emergency Kit offers an added layer of preparedness for unpredictable situations.

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