By Rachael Rettner, Senior Writer Published: 08/27/2013 01:51 PM EDT on LiveScience Google Glass is finding its way into operation rooms: A surgeon in Ohio recently became one of the first to livestream an operation and use the technology to...
As I see it, mobile-savvy physicians have half-a-dozen distinct advantages over their office-bound brethren:
Mobile physicians can provide better care. I follow my patients everywhere, from my office to the hospital and their homes. In fact, I’ve made more that 10,000 house calls since 1984. Many of my patients have diabetes-related disabilities, so it’s not unusual that trips across town to my office would be next to impossible for them. But I know that I can often keep a patient out of the hospital by providing timely care. That simple fact alone - that I can better serve my patients - keeps me going to their homes as needed.
Mobile health requires less equipment. I started making house calls long before I started using technology. Today’s devices and software are catching up with the way I practice. I now carry only two instruments as I move from location to location: a stethoscope and an iPad.
Mobile physicians can stay connected. Being mobile means I can pull up information I need anytime through a secure Internet connection. Log-in is almost instantaneous with the iPad and I can switch easily from screen to screen, so I can stay focused on the patient. Because I’m always connected, I can take care of many tasks right away - before, during or after seeing a patient. At the end of the day, I’m not chained to the office. I can take my device home with me and finish the day’s “paperwork” after spending time with my family.
Mobile health improves continuity of care. Traditionally, care falters anytime a patient goes from one stage of care to the next. Mobile health is closing some of those gaps. I recently visited a patient with bedsores, for instance. In the past, I would have written a paragraph describing the wound. With the iPad, I can take a picture of the wound, send it to my team and tell them what I did to treat it and how I want them to follow up. They don’t have to interpret my words; they can see the wound for themselves.
Mobile technologies speed workflow. The system I use from Greenway Health enables me to complete and manage most tasks on the iPad. Dictating notes through Siri saves me hours of manual documentation. I still need to use the office computer to integrate unstructured data into the patient’s record, but each release provides more mobile functionality. I fully expect that someday I will be able to do everything from a single portable device.
Mobile physicians are poised for interoperability. My practice in Brooklyn is a completely integrated electronic practice. Within my office, we maintain a complete record of every patient, no matter where that patient was seen. We attested to Stage 1 meaningful use in 2011 and - thanks to all of our work to integrate knowledge across our practice - I’m confident we’re ready for the subsequent stages of meaningful use. Most importantly, our records are more complete, we have access to important details about our patients, and that helps us deliver better care.
Google Helpouts is a new video service by Google that connects individuals seeking help with experts via real time online video. Healthcare providers are using the platform to connect with Patients. Helpouts is built on top of Google’s Hangouts platform and is HIPAA compliant.
Google says it was created to provide “real help from real people in real time.” People who offer help through the service are calledproviders and can be businesses as well as individuals. Providers must pass a screening process in order to qualify as Helpouts providers.
Once approved, providers create and maintain listings that explain their offerings, qualifications, prices and schedules. Payments are made through Google Wallet and pricing is based either per minute, per session, or free. While Google charges 20% of the fees, health-related providers are not yet being charged. Helpouts Providers can be rated at the end of a session by the user.
Google made big news recently when it announced Google Calico, a new venture that would apply “some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology,” putting the minds at Google toward the problems of aging and illness.
Calico is far from Google’s first venture into health or wellness, however. The company’s (ultimately failed) PHR venture Google Health was one high profile example, as were 3D anatomy-viewer Google Body and Google Flu Trends. The company has always had a background participation in activity tracking, debuting an Android app called MyTracks in 2009, and incorporating passive activity tracking into first Google Now and then the Android OS in general. And perhaps most importantly, Google has introduced health-related features into its original core offering: search. As well it should, since Pew data indicates that eight in 10 health inquiries start at a search engine like Google.
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