When you are feeling ill, do you turn to the web to research your symptoms? This is a growing pastime for millions of people around the world. It is also the bane of doctors who find themselves faced with patients that have already diagnosed their conditions, decided on a treatment, and demand a particular medication or procedure.
But the truth is that we have very good reasons to research our symptoms in advance. The process for getting diagnosed by a professional has become incredibly difficult, time consuming, and expensive.
Telemedicine has so many potential benefits that it is hard not to get excited when a reasonably promising solution surfaces. Just to list a few:
- It could reduce the high costs of health care that are driving the US (and global) economy into the red.
- It could reduce the co-pays for the patient when all a she needs is a quick look, some simple advice, or a phoned in prescription.
- It could give rural residents access to the higher quality healthcare available in more urban areas or from academic medical centers.
- It could help medical providers collaborate through more diverse teams.
- It could allow physically or mentally challenged individuals access care without assistance.
I have written before about wearables. They are a nice toy, but in general they don’t really do anything particularly useful, at least not with the current technology. This week, I read about a great application in health care, and I think it works.
Drugmaker Biogen Idec is exploring ways to use fitness trackers to gather data from people who suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.
There are a lot of good human factors topics to discuss about health trackers. But this article brought up an issue that I hadn’t thought of before and one that I think is a problem with a lot of the systems we use today. It is the danger of false precision.
The technology has outstripped the research, and scientists are still struggling to understand whether the monitors work as promised, how to keep people motivated to use them, and exactly what the devices are supposed to accomplish, anyway…