Find a doctor meets the mobile, social age

A staple of any health system's website is its "Find a Doctor" service.

Now an Atlanta company has injected some mega doses of social and mobile into the equation and come up with a new service that is one part symptom checker, one part crowdsourced solution and one part doctor referral service.

The company is Sharecare, which just launched the AskMD mobile app for iPhone. Its promise:

More than just a standard symptom checker, AskMD gets you from "what's wrong?" to what you can do about it. 

Sharecare has some big names behind it, including a partnership with "America's Doctor," Dr. Mehmet Oz, and offers a web-based home for better health. It also partners with a number of other luminary organizations, from AARP to Mount Sinai Health System to Pfizer to UnitedHealthcare.

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A key feature of Sharecare's website is the RealAge test, which goes through a lengthy Q&A process to generate a profile of each user by assessing health, medical and lifestyle issues. My age was 4.4 years younger than my actual age. 

The AskMD app is a simple yet comprehensive symptom checker that walks you through a series of questions to help pinpoint your health problem.

I used it recently after suffering a groin strain playing ice hockey. AskMD came up with nine possible issues and solutions and then asked if I wanted to be connected with a physician (I declined, knowing ice, rest and ibuprofen will likely do the trick).

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As services become more sophisticated — and patients get more comfortable using the technology — we will see spikes in patient engagement that will ultimately lead to better outcomes and higher satisfaction.

An app is never a substitute for real, in-person medical advice, but services like Sharecare and AskMD are helping us get closer to truly integrated health care.  


8 ways iBeacons can improve your health

Location-based services are heating up.

First it was check-ins (think Foursquare). That begat unique offers based on geolocations. Now Apple has taken the next step with proximity-based messages and offers — within a location. 

Image source:  Gigaom

Image source: Gigaom

Apple installed iBeacons in all 254 of its U.S. stores earlier this month. The iBeacon system uses low-powered, low-cost transmitters to send messages to users based on their proximity (and users have the option to turn off the messages).

Here's how it works: As iPhone-toting customers walk through one of Apple's retail stores, they can receive messages about products they are standing in front of, news about events that are about to take place or even on-the-spot unadvertised discounts. 

Macy's is also testing Apple's iBeacon service and Major League Baseball said it will use the technology at ballparks this spring. And Apple is not alone, with Qualcomm recently announcing its own proximity beacons, called Gimbal.

How can these be used in health care? Here are eight quick ideas:

  1. Help patients, families and visitors navigate throughout a hospital.
  2. Broadcast wait times at ERs and doctor's offices.
  3. Notify passers by of specials at the cafeteria or the gift shop.
  4. Remind patients that the in-house pharmacy is convenient and quick.
  5. Provide reminders to patients to complete satisfaction surveys.
  6. Remind everyone to wash their hands (everywhere)!
  7. Suggest it's time for a flu shot.
  8. Notification of the urgent need for blood donors.


Crowdsouring sickness (with @sickweather)

Cough, common cold and sore throat are going around in Boston.

And I'm heading there today.

Thanks to the Sickweather app for iPhone, I can get a glimpse of what ailments are spreading through my area.

Just as Doppler radar scans the skies for indicators of bad weather, Sickweather scans social networks for indicators of illness, allowing you to check for the chance of sickness as easily as you can check for the chance of rain.

You can tweak preferences within Sickweather to notify you when certain illnesses are prevalent — from allergies and asthma to strep throat and whooping cough. As Sickweather says, "don't worry, be healthy."

So, for my trip to Boston today, I'll be packing the Purell!

iPhone, please take my temperature (with @kinsahealth)

Here's a dongle for your smartphone that could actually save your life.

Health care startup Kinsa is readying what it calls "the world's smartest thermometer" — a small, flexible thermometer that plugs into an iPhone or Android smartphone. It not only gives you a fun and graphical depiction of your body heat, but also aggregates data to show the "health" of a community, what Kinsa calls the "health weather."

Inder Singh, Kinsa's founder, was previously an executive VP of the Clinton Health Access Initiative’s program to fight Malaria and HIV in Africa and South Asia. “While I was there," Singh told Fast Company, "it struck me that if we just knew a little more about how the illness was spreading, we could do more."

The result: The Kinsa thermometer.

At the NY Tech Meetup on October 8, 2013, Singh said:

"We are creating a product that we believe will truly transform the way people care for their families. And we are creating a system where data, crowdsourced data — your data — will save lives." 

Kinsa is one of a number of devices and companies working to harness health data to help educate and prevent the spread of disease. 

Survey says: Remind me, please!

Americans want more reminders about their health — and they think technology may be just what the doctor ordered.

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A recent survey by the Varolii Corporation showed that health messages would be among the most welcomed used of push technology, either text messages or emails.

Some key findings, as reported by MobiHealthNews:

  • 32 percent said proactive messaging could have helped them avoid a health care issue, like a missed appointment or a forgotten medication.
  • 69 percent welcomed a reminder about an upcoming appointment or vaccination.
  • 57 percent mentioned a notice to reorder or pick up a prescription.
  • 39 percent would be happy with a message reminding them to schedule a medical appointment.
  • 80 percent trust companies to know when and how much to contact them. And they most trust health care-related companies, including providers, pharmacists and even insurance providers.

Health care currently has a high trust factor. We should use it wisely!

Download the survey here.

Source: MobiHealthNews