I began to virtualize the way I manage my health several years back with the launch of ZocDoc, which provides an online system to locate and schedule appointments with doctors (similar to the way we use OpenTable for restaurant reservations). Flash forward to today, and my functional medicine doctor lives almost 2000 miles away. We keep in regular contact through email and set up monthly 30 minute consults over Skype (we do meet face-to-face at least once a year). He has access to all of my lab data in addition to other QS-related data I provide (there’s a misconception that the quantified self movement is “anti-doctor”, which is not the case – the issue is finding the right doctor(s)).
But things are just getting started. A number of mobile health/telemedicine-related technologies are coming to market that will continue to disrupt healthcare – by not just saving time and money, but potentially saving lives and allowing patients to have access to the best doctors regardless of geography. Dr. Eric Topol talks about the impending democratization of health care based 8 key consumer drivers: sensors, labs, imaging, physical exams, access to medical records, transparency of costs, and digital pills.
Here are a few examples of mobile health apps I have recently used:
An FDA-approved ECG/EKG (Electrocardiogram) device that fits in your pocket and only costs $149? AliveCor is a product that snaps over your smartphone (so doubles as a nice protective case) and has 2 sensors you touch with your fingers to transmit your heart data to the AliveCor mobile app.
After 30 seconds you can see a readout of your ECG (cool!) along with your pulse rate and are alerted if any atrial fibrillation was detected. Several options are then given to submit for further analysis. I decided to “splurge” and chose the option to have a clinical analysis and report done by a US Board Certified Cardiologist in 24 hours for $12USD. I entered my credit card info and within 8 hours I had received my analysis:
I was given a clean bill of (heart) health, but for someone with an existing heart condition, this can be a game changer – normally, when an individual encounters an “episode” (such as irregular heartbeat), they rush to an emergency room but by the time they have an ECG done their episode has passed, and their ECG will look normal. Now, all they need to do is pick up their phone and they can record the episode as it happens. I already have several friends who have purchased this device for their elderly parents.
FirstDerm is an app that allows you to anonymously submit photos of your skin concern for review by board certified dermatologist and get a response within 24 hours (they also have a sister app for anonymously submitting more embarrassing potential STD-related skin issues). Over the past few years I have developed a lot of (sun-related) freckles/spots on my upper back and had been meaning to have them checked out by a dermatologist just to be safe. Instead of paying $200-$300 for an office visit (New York City prices!), I figured I could use their app to get a diagnosis without the added inconvenience of traveling and sitting in a waiting room for several hours, all for $29.99 USD (FirstDerm claims 70% of cases result in not having to visit a doctor, but if they do notice something strange they will advise you to make an in-person appointment).
I followed their instructions and snapped 2 photos of my upper back (close up and wider shot) entered a description along with my credit card information and was given a case ID. They promise a response within 24 hours, and sure enough I received a reply/diagnosis in about 4 hours:
Fortunately, it appears to simply be a case of Lentigo Solaris (“sun spots”). Good to know, but will keep an eye on things over time.
These are just a few current examples of mobile health apps, but over time we’ll see the continuing evolution and adoption of these tools that will add accessibility and convenience while saving time, money, and potentially lives.