The NextGen Patient

Using modern medical technology to improve patient understanding and compliance.

It is an inescapable fact that smartphones and computers are slowly becoming a necessity. Although this change brings with it a certain level of uncertainty, when properly implemented, it allows us to access medical information more accurately and efficiently. Instead of seeing this “technological conversion” as a hindrance, I propose that every physician should approach it with an optimistic spirit. I mentioned in my last post (6 Keys to Medical Technology Etiquette) thatcommunication must be preserved to have an effective patient encounter. The next step in maintaining communication, while implementing use of smartphones and computers, is simply to involve your patients in the process.

An increasing number of our patients are using smartphones, and we should be taking advantage of that fact by incorporating their smartphone use into our treatment plans. Every day, new medical smartphone applications are added to these phones’ application markets, and patients can use these applications to better understand their diseases and keep track of their medications. Using this knowledge, we actually can have an extra aid in keeping our patients compliant with our treatment plans. Below, I have highlighted several applications to demonstrate my point:

Medication Reminder Applications:

Caregiver / RxMindMe Prescription Reminder / Pill Reminder Pro: Enter your medications and when you take them. Your phone will alarm and tell you which one to take and for what you are taking it.

Blood Glucose Tracking Applications:

Glucose Buddy / Glucose Tracker / Blood Pal / BGluMon:Track and graph your daily blood glucose readings, and see your progress with initiation of different medications.

Food Calorie Index Applications:

Lose it! / Weight Watchers / Meal Snap / FoodScanner: Keep track of what you are eating and the calorie content of those foods to better tailor your diet and weight loss.

Hundredsof applications give support and information to patients about certain diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and COPD. It is important to mention that each of these applications give some disclaimer that they are not to be used as a replacement to professional medical advice and that the users of the applications should always consult a physician before using the application to better their health. However, with a little bit of preparation, integrating the use of applications like these into your treatment plans can serve a few purposes:

1. It personally involves your patient in the treatment of their own conditions, making them feel more responsible about their outcome.

2. It can improve patient compliance through regular reminders and through visual representations of their progression.

3. It gives another point of commonality to the doctor—patient relationship, improving communication and teamwork.

4. Using these apps is just plain fun, and your patients might actually enjoy it!

Now the cons:

1. Not everyone has a smartphone.

2. You will need to do some research about which applications contain the most accurate information and which are easiest to use.

Although incorporating the use of these applications in your treatment plans may take a considerable amount of preparation and reinforcement, the benefit of being able to share in the medical technology revolution with your patient can be productive, reassuring, and downright fun. Take some time to look over the applications I have listed above, and do your own research. Let me know if you find other applications that work well (we’ll include app reviews in the App Wrap section of our print publication MDNG; send an e-mail to ccole@mdng.com), and if you already have patients that use applications you have suggested, let us know how it is going. The partnership between the NextGen Physicianand the NextGen Patientdoes not have to be a struggle; however, if it does seem like a struggle at times, at least your patients can struggle right along with you!

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