Health Goes Mobile
Many doctors are looking towards the future as they put away their trusty stethoscopes. Dr. Topol, the chief academic officer for Scripps Health, a San Diego-based non-profit health-care network, felt no need to reminisce either. When he moved on to a portable ultrasound device, roughly the size of a cellphone, he never looked back.
When he puts it to a patient’s chest, the device allows him to peer directly into the heart, and check out the muscle, the valves, the rhythm and the blood flow.
“Why would I listen to ‘lub dub’ when I can see everything?” Dr. Topol says.
Dr. Topol is one of many health care professionals who are embracing the explosion of new health technologies. The driving force behind this revolution has been the emergence of smartphones.
He and other physicians say the technology can not only improve diagnoses and treatment, but also revolutionize how doctors and patients think about health care. Mobile tools allow physicians to monitor vital signs, note changes in activity levels and verify that medications have been taken, without ever seeing a patient face to face. That means fewer office visits and fewer hospitalizations.
For their part, patients can monitor their health in real time by gaining access to an unprecedented amount of data that will allow patients to “take charge of their own health care,” Dr. Topol says.
Doctors are not the only ones seeing major breakthroughs and changes in the way they deliver care. Emergency responders are also on the front line of another innovation, the digital ambulance. New technologies are allowing a slew of tech upgrades that can give first responders the edge they need for delivering the best possible care.
One such wireless ambulance system uses a small video camera, digital stethoscope and microphone mounted on a stretcher to transmit live images of the patient to the treatment team waiting in the hospital emergency room. Paramedics and nurses in the ambulance can send close-up images of wounds, real-time video of the patient’s response to various treatments, and
audio of heartbeats and respiration.
This system is especially useful for ambulances that operate in rural communities, which places them some distance to local health facilities.
Although technical breakthroughs have the potential to deliver better care, they can be costly, and many health care technology companies are working on low cost initiatives with smartphones.
In an era where many medical schools hand out iPods along with dissection kits, Dr. Topol says smartphone apps, wireless sensors and other innovative tools hold “transformative potential.”
Smartphone apps aimed at delivering better health care are being developed and expanded on constantly, and can deliver a wide variety of services that save doctors and EMS time and money.