What the future of healthcare means for patients

Before seeing their doctor, patients might sit quietly in the waiting area. Perhaps they watch TV or play on their smartphones. Once they meet with their doctor, they might be prescribed medicine that they need to manually pick up after waiting for pharmacists at the local drug store to fill their requests. For patients, a visit to the doctor means a lot of time spent waiting around. However, with the influence of technology in healthcare, all of the waiting around could turn into a thing of the past.

"Smartphone apps may one day make doctors' visits more efficient."

Helpful apps
Part of the doctor's visit can be made more efficient through the use of smartphone apps that already exist and others that are being developed. For instance, many fitness enthusiasts already use heart rate monitor technology and calorie-tracking apps that could one day be of use in a professional settings, explained The Profitable Practice. By incorporating that data into visits, physicians could have access to a great deal of unbiased information that would otherwise require more time to get.

An app that tracks blood pressure could come in handy for physicians who wish to study the effects of certain prescription medicine on patients. The technology could compile data related to the patients' blood pressure levels throughout the treatment period to determine the drug's effectiveness.

Apps could further cut down on time spent aggregating data from the patient when it comes to lifestyle choices. Sometimes, the information the patient gives to the physician in regard to his or her physical activity is inaccurate, whether this was due to patient confusion or deliberate withholding of information.

"Wearable technology will give us a better understanding of how our recommendations may or may not be applicable for that patient's lifestyle," Natasha Burgert, Ph.D., of Pediatric Associates, told the source.

Easier access to unbiased, relevant information on patients' health in the future will help speed up visits and make the process more efficient.

You might be able to visit the doctor without leaving your home.You might be able to visit the doctor without leaving your home.

Virtual visits
Apps aren't the only way visits with healthcare professionals can be more efficient. The idea of virtual doctors' visits has been thrown around for years, and some healthcare providers are already offering these to patients. Without even leaving your house, you can explain your symptoms to a trusted source in real time and be on your way to recovery. It's a concept that's valuable to the individual as well as the public, since if a patient doesn't need to leave his or her home to see a doctor, there's a reduced chance of spreading contagious illnesses. Additionally, getting in your car and traveling is the last thing you want to do when you're not feeling well.

These virtual visits complement the concept of mobile health. Imagine being able to virtually speak with a doctor who can connect to an app on your phone and get accurate data on your vitals. Considering how far technology has come in healthcare, the idea isn't completely unbelievable.

However, as with most forms of technology - especially in a professional setting - some may be hesitant to adopt these tools. Some healthcare professionals may be worried that physician and patient interaction will be less valued as it has been in the past. They also might hesitate to diagnose without physically performing tests on individuals. However, technology allows improved communication with patients, and if additional information is needed from a patient, he or she will still have the option of coming in for a physical visit. These technological advances will assist doctor-patient interaction rather than replace it.