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Medicine on the Move

August 30, 2011

In an era of rapidly rising health care costs and consumer concerns over diminished coverage, it’s encouraging once in a while to take note of positive, transformative changes in the health care industry. This article in The Wall Street Journal summarizes a few innovations:

  • Vscan (an $8,000 device) a portable ultrasound device roughly the size of a cellphone.
  •  “Invisible bracelet”: In the example given, each morning a woman clips a  red plastic tag to her daughter’s shirt each morning. One side of the tag reads: “In Case of Emergency.” The other instructs responders to text a unique PIN to the number 51020. Anyone who does so will receive a text offering detailed instructions for her daughter’s care. They’ll learn, for instance, that her particular form of epilepsy does not respond well to the most common seizure drugs and that certain medications make her manic.
  • a wireless ambulance-monitoring system: a small video camera, digital stethoscope and microphone mounted on a stretcher transmits live images of the patient to the treatment team waiting in the hospital emergency room.
  •  Mobile MIM system (approved last February by the Food and Drug Administration), which lets doctors use their iPhones to view images from sophisticated hospital tests such as MRIs and CT scans.
  • AirStrip OB: An iPhone application which, with a couple of taps, allows a physician to view, in real-time, all the data from the sensors strapped to a  patient’s abdomen.

So much information, so readily available, can have a downside. “We could create a whole culture of cyberchondriacs,” says Dr. Topol, a cardiologist in San Diego. He acknowledges, too, that something will be lost when most face-to-face visits with physicians are replaced by wireless exchange of data. “We’re getting virtual touch, rather than actual touch,” he says.

But Dr. Topol says in his own practice, he’s found that many patients are more willing to make lifestyle changes that keep them healthy when they can monitor the consequences of their actions in real time. A doctor can talk “until he’s blue in the face,” he says, but it sometimes takes cold, hard data to motivate a patient. Read more…

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