Searching For The GPS Of Healthcare

Today it's all about mobile. People are doing everything on their mobile devices -- emailing, texting, listening to music, taking pictures, watching videos, banking, checking the weather -- keeping track of all kinds of things. Our devices have become an extension of our lives; they're like our command center for managing just about everything. It's only natural that healthcare should be added to the list.

Thinking about the mobile patient.
In many ways, patients are already relying on their mobile devices for healthcare needs. Texting is often used to remind patients to take their medications or that their prescriptions need refilling. There are apps that provide diaries for tracking various diseases. There are locator apps for people looking for a specific type of healthcare provider. And there are even games that educate and entertain patients while waiting to see their doctors. Being mobile with healthcare information is essential. But let's face it -- it's also a fairly saturated market. So what can we serve up that can make a difference in healthcare today?

Health on the go.
The essence of a map is to simulate a pathway prior to taking it. Thanks to the GPS built into our smart phones, we can drive from New York City to the Outer Banks without a single wrong turn. Building in a GPS on the mobile phone has done more than transform the dog-eared map book into a far more usable and accessible asset. It's created a sixth sense for modern living as revolutionary as the invention of contact lenses. It's real time, it's ubiquitous, and it's easy to use.

How quickly the GPS has made its way into our cars, phones, and hearts makes you wonder what it would take to develop a healthcare application that offers a real-time view of your health. But this time, the pathway would be how much progress you're making on the road to your health goal, whether it be reducing cholesterol, giving up smoking, keeping circadian rhythms balanced, or measuring sleep quality. And how many different paths can you take to get there? The idea is not just an information portal like WebMD, but a personalized resource that is real time and high tech -- meaning one that integrates scans, pedometers, body sensors, blood work results, and the like.

One of the hurdles patients face in changing behavior to achieve health goals is the lack of a simulated learning map that demonstrates what a set of actions would help them achieve and how they're doing on the journey. While physicians are conversant in mechanisms of action for various pills, patient-facing utilities that simulate and bring to life the turns and course corrections on the road to getting to a health goal seem to be, for the most part, missing.

A search for mobile healthcare apps on iTunes will bring up a plethora of disease-tracker diaries and informational podcasts, but there doesn't seem to be anything that parallels the simple, ubiquitous, and real-time experience of the GPS. A mobile app that integrates with our electronic health records, has the medical encyclopedia of disease progression built in, and can then spit out multiple ways to getting to a health destination -- this is what we're ready for.

Evolving as our patients evolve.
If mobile is our new way of connecting and staying connected, then we need to make sure that all of our healthcare needs are part of that. As technology continues to evolve, patients deserve a personalized resource that is real time and fully integrated; they deserve a GPS to keep them on the road to personal health.

Tags: health, mobile
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