Do you miss the days of your dear old doctor driving up to your doorstep for a checkup? While the traditional house call may be a thing of the past, something even better is on the threshold of a new revolutionary beginning. That something is Telemedicine.
Broadly defined, Telemedicine is “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status,” as per the American Telemedicine Association (ATM). More understandably, it is how doctors and clinicians are integrating themselves into the rapidly expanding web-driven world. While the ATM’s definition seems narrowed on how e-communication can help doctors and their practices relay information to other offices, I’m going to focus on a more nuanced—idea of what Telemedicine can and will be. The medical information being exchanged does not, as the ATM’s definition insinuates, have to be between doctors’ offices, it can be between patient and doctor. This is where the future lies not just for telemedicine, but the entire medical industry.
As smartphones become more and more affixed to the hands, and other smart-tech like the Apple Watch develop, individual persons have a much greater ability to communicate intricate data. Moore’s Law says that since hardware computing came into being in the late 1900s, computer processing power has doubled every 2 years. The ability of a single microchip, let alone the contents of a phone, will be astounding as time goes on. Right now there are simple, pictorial approaches to Telemedicine are already in practice. An example is the website StyeGuy , run by Dr. Dan Landmann, an eyelid doctor, wherein people can take a picture of their eyelid, send it in to Dr. Landmann, and for a small fee he will give a professional evaluation and treatment plan of what’s going on with your eye, and how to treat your stye. No travel, no infuriatingly routine wait in the doctor’s office, just fill out some basic information, send a picture, and get your answer.
Pictures are just the beginning. Currently there are practices set up for taking your own blood pressure from home, and checking insulin levels for diabetics, all from your phone (with certain medical accessories). This is where we are headed not just for blood pressure, but all sorts of routine checkups. With all of the fervor surrounding digital applications, it is only a matter of time before someone develops something groundbreaking. Pulse readers will become blood monitors, or pictures of the skin turn into X-rays. Yes, I am not only suggesting but fully predicting that there will come a day, the date of which I don’t pretend to know, when you can download an app, buy (or be provided with) some kind of appendage for your phone, draw your own blood for a test, and then sync. Or take an x-ray level picture with your phone (or some attachment), sync and send it in for a professional opinion. The effects will be staggering.
There is much potential on the horizon for the industry – perhaps this entire sequence may not come to fruition, but it is only a matter of time before the enabling technology does. Whether or not the associated changes are good or bad remains to be seen, but do not be surprised when your phones are your literal lifeline in the future.