The robo doctor will see you now

A estimated 88% of physicians are now using mobile technology to facilitate some sort of patient care. Those who fear that digital technologies will lead to depersonalized health care should know that this very same concern was voiced in the 1700s when the medical world was introduced to an innovation to replace physicians placing an ear against a patient’s chest. It was called the stethoscope.

The Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS™) is a computer-based system of integrated services designed to help individuals cope with a health crisis or medical concern. It claims to provide the best features of computers and human support and tailors and personalizes information and support.

CHESS™ provides timely and easy accessible resources that patients can access from their home computers including answers to commonly asked questions, a library of full-text articles, tips, tools, and help in creating action plans and making healthcare decisions. It is being used by several major health organizations and claims to improve patients’ quality of life, reduce demands on physician care, and in some cases, reduce the cost of care.

With other digital technologies, healthcare providers can receive alerts reminding them of intervals for preventive care, referrals, testing, and other procedures. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, physicians who get such reminders order more preventive care services, deliver more pneumonia vaccinations, and more than double the number of colon cancer screenings for their 50-year-old patients.

Big brother?

Pick a disease and you can probably find a mobile app for it. Patients with heart disease, for example, can now monitor their blood pressure. There is even a device for your cell phone that can detect ear infections. Blood glucose monitors are mini-computers that store information that healthcare providers can access to monitor how well a patient is maintaining his or her diabetes. But if Carol doesn’t adhere to the food choices that her Registered Dietitian has laid out for her, will her insurance company deny her coverage because she is not compliant?

Many of us are accustomed to storing information in various clouds. But having someone hack into my favorite playlist is vastly different from gaining access to my health records. While sharing information between healthcare providers can be beneficial, putting this sensitive information into the wrong hands could be detrimental to patients.

At the end of the day, however, being able to predict my heart attack from happening weeks before the event may be worth the risk of someone hacking into my cardiologist’s notes. I am definitely an adopter, but all of this wonderful technology won’t do much good if it doesn’t get into the right hands. I’ll address that and more next time.

CHESS is copyrighted and licensed by the Center and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.