If you have spent any time in a hospital recently, you may have noticed that the healthcare industry is a proud adopter of digital technology. Tablets and laptops have replaced traditional notepads and paper charts, and monitoring equipment can now push data in real time to central monitoring stations (allowing, for example, nurses to monitor all of their patients simultaneously from their desk). The modern hospital is increasingly a connected hospital. However, as impressive as modern hospitals have become, the real evolution in healthcare technology is on the consumer side. These devices and products put power back in consumers’ hands.
From FitBits to Apple Watches, wearables are becoming more and more commonplace. And it’s easy to see why, particularly as Millennials become more health conscious. These wearables make it easier than ever for individuals to monitor their daily routines, maintain regular exercise programs, keep track of physical activity, and pinpoint gaps and opportunities for improvement. These devices track everything from heart rate to miles traveled, and often sync with mobile applications (more on this below) that enable more in-depth analysis of various tracking metrics. In the Big Data world that we now possess, information is king, and wearables provide invaluable health information in droves.
Mobile Apps and Medical Alert Devices
If wearables record information, mobile apps help make information accessible and digestible so that consumers can make informed decisions regarding their health. More and more medical applications become available every day, and they cover the gamut of healthcare topics and needs. In addition to apps that sync with fitness trackers, there are also a slew of dedicated medical applications. Micromedex, for example, provides comprehensive pharmaceutical and drug information for just $2.99 a year – individuals with multiple prescriptions can use this app to ensure they are taking the proper dosage. Other mobile apps, like the Johns Hopkins ABX Guide, act as reference guides for a wide range of medical conditions, diseases, and illnesses, enabling patients to research symptoms and possible treatments.
Technology that goes one step further comes in the form of a medical alert device, which can contact emergency response personnel in the event of an emergency. These devices are discreet, practical and highly beneficial. The Lively Mobile medical alert system, for example, is a small, waterproof medical alert device that can be worn around your next or clipped on. The fall detection capability automatically calls for medical help if a fall is detected, and the GPS feature allows for medical personnel to find you quickly.
Over-the-Counter Medical Monitors
Though wearables are increasing in popularity (and there are ample to choose from), many consumers need more specialized medical monitors to keep track of their conditions. As it turns out, these too are becoming more readily available (and more accurate), thanks to advances in digital technology. Digital blood pressure monitors, blood glucose monitors, and even at-home colon cancer tests are now available over-the-counter or online at affordable prices. These consumer-grade medical monitors enable individuals to better monitor, manage, and act on health conditions, ailments, and diseases. Technology is bringing tools that were once the domain of the hospital into the home, and in the process, is empowering individuals to take control of their health.
Electronic Medical Records
Many hospitals throughout the country are making electronic medical records available online, so that patients have access to their complete medical history anytime, anywhere. In fact, mobile apps like MyChart even make it possible for patients enrolled in such programs to check their medical records from their phones or tablets. This transparency has the potential to improve care and results while lowering costs, to say nothing of improving user experiences throughout all stages of the treatment process. An informed patient is one who can participate in their own care, and electronic medical records (EMR) help facilitate this.
Technology Empowers the Patient
Consumer medical technology puts control back in the hands of the patient. Why be a spectator when you can participate? Whether you track your daily activity with a fitness tracker to remain mentally and physically fit, or take advantage of more advanced medical monitors and applications to stay in front of an existing medical condition, medical technology has evolved to the point where you can be an active component of your care. Why not take advantage of it? The technology is out there.