How appropriate is an App to discuss Patients’ state of Illness?

How appropriate is an App to discuss Patients’ state of Illness? Mobile devices have impacted the workings of healthcare professionals in various ways – time and health management, health record maintenance, patient management and monitoring, and clinical decision making, etc. The apps used by healthcare providers in medical practice are many, but have yet to be totally accepted by the professionals and even the common people. Although studies have stated that communication between patient and provider could be enhanced by a disease management app, which tracks and monitors the patients, thereby promoting adherence to the medication and thus improvement in patient’s health, yet a negligible percent of its usage has trickled down. A recent study found that nearly 80% of the 4000 physicians surveyed in the USA, use smartphones for administrative work and patient care as compared to the paltry 28% of the US population who own a smart phone!  From a physician’s perspective in the current healthcare scenario where administrative functions far outweigh patient care, an app that delivers – information where and when & can integrate with their workflow seamlessly, is more easily adopted than EHRs

Usage of App benefits for Physicians & Healthcare providers:

  • New discoveries and Treatments
  • Better diagnostic tools to deliver recommended care
  • Track diseases and epidemic outbreaks in real time
  • Track & monitor Patient Pain management
  • Track and monitor dosage of patient medication
  • Time management & information management- health records, medical imaging scans readily available across geo-spatial lines

For Patients:

  • Monitoring medication and symptoms of patients
  • Disease management especially chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma
  • Engage patients in tracking their symptoms and being more proactive about their illness
  • Broadcasting patient’s conditions in real time instead of waiting for the appointed time

Yes there are certain risks prevalent here:

  • Medico-legal & ethical implications
  • Reliability of clinical decisions based solely on apps
  • Privacy of patient’s data
  • Doctor-patient relationship

However, in chronic and critical illness, where physical travelling and on the spot appointments are difficult, an app that can appropriately determine your state of health, or a video call to your doctor who can monitor your symptoms online, and thus make recommendations till your next appointment, is but a blessing in disguise.

A fee-using app may not be attractive enough, even though it shows a plus for physician’s time usage which can be better spent on more critical patients. Also, the geriatric population may not always be attuned to using such devices, for which it would be most applicable, given their immobility at times, and the need for daily monitoring. Thus, it is yet too early to say whether or not it is proper to discuss one’s illness using an app, depending on several risk factors mentioned above, including the seriousness of the disease. Can the patient and physician afford it- financially?