Monday, January 11, 2016

Medical advice just a click away

A country that boasts of one of the highest growth rate in sale of smartphones clubbed with a population which is going on 1.4 billion, do you think that medical advice via apps or emails or messages is not a possibility in the near future? In fact people are & will be increasingly resorting to using apps primarily due to the convenience of a phone as also because it takes a lot of time to reach healthcare centres these days. So if it’s not a life threatening malaise taking help from a Siri or a Cortana to connect to some health app is definitely a near likelihood. It won’t be out of place to say that “devices once only in the hands of a doctor are now in the pockets of consumers”. Read on about some of the popular apps:

Apps for patients

Let’s begin with an extremely popular aggregator app called Practo. This app automatically uses GPS & WiFi to set the location of the app user and generates the results for doctor & diagnostic lab queries, along with details like doctors’ qualifications, consultation fee and exact address. In a tie up with Uber, Practo even facilitates a cab ride for the patient to the chosen clinic. & home-deliver medicines provided they are accompanied by prescriptions. However for over the counter drugs no prescriptions are required.

MeraDoctor is an app that brings consultations with a doctor to your phone. The app allows 15 minutes free chat sessions, where doctors help patients understand their existing condition, tests and possible side effects. They can however, prescribe only OTC drugs.

eMocha is a platform created by clinicians at Johns Hopkins to help deliver effective healthcare to patients in South Africa diagnosed with Multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis. Using this app patients record themselves taking the prescribed drugs & then upload it on cloud for verification by doctors in Johns Hopkins, USA.

Apps for physicians

Apart from Apps which can be used by patients, there are apps that can be used by physicians. Some of the popular ones include:

Epocrates: This app enables physicians to review drug prescribing and safety information, select health insurance formularies for drug coverage information, perform calculations like BMI and access medical news and research.

Medcalc: This app isn’t free. It features an exhaustive list of formulae, scores, scales & calculations.

Skyscape & WebMD: These apps are decision support tools which feature drug information, medical calculator, evidence based clinical information & summaries of journals.

There are also Vet apps like PetFirstAid (an ios app) which has detailed videos & step by step illustrations while caring for pets.

Then there are the Wellness apps for calculating your BMI, checking your glucose levels, measuring your pulse rate, etc. which are present in almost all devices running on iOS, Android or Windows platform. Recently a patient suffering from a heart problem in USA managed to get assistance 30,000 ft above sea level inflight, by using an iPhone app to consult with his doctor.

There are many pros to the above mentioned & other such Medical apps, yet doctors have expressed their apprehensions on do-it-yourself medications for patients. They have asked patients to use these apps cautiously. Chemists too in India have objected to medicines being sold using apps and other ecommerce platforms. Nevertheless, there is an increasing interest in such apps and more & more people including physicians are exploring (maybe not endorsing) these platforms.

- Monica Mor
Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

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