Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Even an App for That

The guys who do technology workshops for me at the university assure me that they make apps for everything.  I always took that with a grain of salt . . . but, it looks like they are telling the truth.  They really do make apps for just about everything under the sun . . . including medical care.  According to the most recent issue of Time magazine, you can now get medical care wherever you happen to have your cell phone. 

Years ago . . . and, I mean years ago . . . when I first started in the ministry I went to visit one of the members of the congregation I was serving out in the country.  While I was visiting she told me that she had an appointment to get her heart pacemaker checked out to see if it was operating properly.  She picked up her phone, dialed a number, spoke a few words to a person on the other end of the line, and then she placed the phone against her chest . . . after a couple of minutes, she again spoke to a person on the other end, and then hung up.  “Everything is fine!” she exclaimed.  The pacemaker was working like a charm.  She then explained that the doctor could check the pacemaker over the phone, saving her several hours of making the round trip to the doctor’s office about a hundred miles down the road.  I was amazed at the technology involved in that . . . that was over thirty years ago!

Telemedicine has changed a lot since then.

According to the article in Time magazine there are now numerous apps for the cell phone to get doctoring.  Of course, these apps run the gamut of what a person can actually get . . . from a sort of “ask the nurse” app to an actual doctor talking to you.  And, of course, these apps range in price from being free to up to $40 per use if you actually see a doctor.  According to the article, everyone who is using the apps are pleased.  It is a cheap alternative for those seeking care when compared to what a regular visit would cost in money and time . . . usually costing less and not having to mess with insurance.  For doctors the apps are a means of building a public profile, attracting new patients, and making a little extra money on the side when they are not busy.  And, for hospitals . . . well, it is a means of streamlining care for existing patients . . . medical staff is not wasting time with minor health care issues and spending more time with those patients who need it.  It is a win/win situation for everyone involved.  Even Doctor Phil endorses medical care apps . . . he is a spokesperson for Doctor on Demand.

The executive director of the health care consultancy, IMS Institute, states, “We are going to see a major shift in how medicine is practiced and where.”  But . . . are we ready?  I am not too sure that I am ready for this shift in medical care.

I remember seeing a cartoon once in which a man was watching a tele-evangelist pleading for people watching him on television to put the part of the body that was ailing them up to the television screen for healing.  In the next frame of the cartoon strip the man has dropped his pants, pressed his cheeks (of the buttocks-type) against the glass of his television screen . . . he wanted his hemorrhoids healed.  Even in this age of “selfies”, I cannot imagine myself sitting on my cell phone to give the doctor a good picture of my hemorrhoids.  I also cannot imagine using the app, getting a doctor to look at my “owie”, and having the doctor kiss it through the screen on the cell phone.

Yet, in the article, that is just about what one guy did.  He grabbed his phone, opened his medical app, and had a video chat with a doctor in real time.  After the doctor examined the pictures that this guy sent him, he diagnosed a sprain knee . . . set up a real appointment . . . and, charged him for his services.  The guy never left the comfort or the confines of his couch . . . saving time and money.  Look out, Doc, I’m sending a few Instagrams of those hemorrhoids!

Of course, this new telemedicine has its shortcoming . . . hemorrhoids, being one.  Primarily, these new apps are good for diagnosing routine illnesses like the flu and assessing minor injuries; they are not good for more serious illnesses and ailments.  They are not good for heart attacks, strokes, and cancer treatment . . . they are also not good for getting prescriptions since the doctor doesn’t really know the individual nor his or her medical history.  Apparently this has already led to some malpractice suits . . . there is probably app for that too!

I presently have two health issues that I am dealing with in my life . . . both involve taking periodical blood tests.  There is not an app for blood tests that I could find . . . and, I don’t think smearing a little of my blood onto the screen of my cell phone is going to get me the results that the doctor needs.  Nope, I still have to do my doctoring the old fashion way . . . thirty minutes waits, tons of paperwork, stripping down and wearing one of those hospital gowns that expose the southern extremities and freezes the cheeks when sitting on the vinyl, and having a five minute chat with the actual doctor.  Then there is paying the bill, haggling with the insurance company, and thanking God that I didn’t drop anything in the examination room that I would need to bend over and pick up while the nurse was there.

As Bob Dylan sings, “The times they are a’changing.”  As much as I like technology, I do not think that an app is going to replace my doctor . . . or my dentist . . . or my car mechanic . . . or my chiropractor . . . or pharmacist . . . at least not yet.  I am sure that they are working on creating apps that do all of those things, but I am not sold . . . yet.  When they can create an app for the dentist that is painless and cheap . . . I might consider downloading one.  In the meantime, I am thinking about going back to a regular cell phone . . . not a smart phone.  That would solve a lot of the problems for me . . .

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