The smartphone physical is coming now to a doctor near you; A smart way to lower the cost of healthcare.

The smartphone physical is coming now to a doctor near you; A smart way to lower the cost of healthcare

A few months ago, a doctor who was concerned with the cost of medical testing and screening was demonstrating some of the new apps that were designed to run on his phone. This is a great idea because many tests including an EKG can now yield useful information by using the computer inside your phone and an application to run a test that some facilities are charging hundreds of dollars for.

Insurers and the public want to be able to get more efficient healthcare and fast answers and now they can. Doctors now have the capability to use their phones with and attachment to test you quickly and in the office for your heart, and retrieve reliable information that can be sent digitally to an email address.

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Will your next physical be done by smartphone?

By Ravi Parikh, Published: July 22

As my attending physician walked in with the next patient, I quickly stuffed my iPhone into my pocket. There was a strict “no cellphone” policy in the pediatric clinic where I was working as a third-year medical student. If my attending had caught me, I would have received a stern lecture about how cellphones were not to be used while patients were in the room.

We proceeded to examine the patient, a young boy named Tim, who had an earache. As part of the routine physical exam, I used my otoscope — a device first described in 1363 — to examine Tim’s eardrum. Unfortunately, it was difficult to see the characteristic cone-shaped membrane. The more I maneuvered the otoscope, the more Tim yelped in pain. I finally gave up and admitted that I couldn’t find the eardrum. Tim had been subjected to enough agony, and we sent him home with a course of antibiotics for a presumed ear infection. My attending later confessed that after 10 years of practicing, she still sometimes had trouble seeing the eardrum.

I remembered Tim’s eardrum when reading the 2013 program of TEDMED, an annual conference in Washington showcasing the most promising medical advances in the country. A medical technology blog that I write for had organized an exhibit called“The Smartphone Physical” to showcase smartphone apps — many of them already commercially available — that doctors could use in a physical. As part of the exhibit, the team used CellScope, a mobile phone attachment to show attendees a picture-perfect magnification of their inner ear canal — much clearer than I’d seen with my otoscope.

I recently mentioned the device to a pediatrician. “That’ll be the day,” she replied.

Many doctors share her skepticism of smartphones in medicine. Less than half of attending physicians in a recent survey reported using smartphones for patient care. Many doctors worry that these technologies will hurt their relationships with patients. In a 2012 essay in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Georgetown University physician Caroline Wellbery warned that “these devices deprive us of the very essence of presence. . . . We may be surrendering our capacity to be in the moment.”

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