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The Future of Medicine – My Smartphone or Yours, Doc?

February 17, 2015


Mobile phone with stethoscopeAn essay published last month in The Wall Street Journal has been bouncing around in my mind. Titled “The Future is in Your Smartphone” by Dr. Eric Topol, a well-known cardiologist and researcher, the essay contends that medicine is the next aspect to be radically changed by smartphones. That’s a statement I can agree with. However, Dr. Topol solely focuses on the smartphone tools that can empower patients—something he refers to as DIY diagnosis.

While smartphones and wearables can deliver a wealth of health information, most people do not know what to do with it once they have it. You can measure your blood-oxygen and glucose levels, blood pressure, and heart rhythm with your smartphone and the appropriate attachments, but for the average person, little meaning is gleaned from these metrics. Dr. Topol admits that despite all of these new tools, he’s not talking about “doctorless” medicine. Patients will still see doctors, but patients will have much more control and be more involved in their own care. He even suggests there may not be a physician shortage after all if patients can take over some of the more “routine” diagnoses.

This sounds nice in theory, but the reality is that the multitude of tools to choose from and the volume of information is overwhelming to both physicians and patients today.  There are immediate solutions needed in hospitals around the country to enable even the most basic, secure, efficient communication between physicians and nurses to care for their patients.

Doctor pointing to mobile phoneI think it’s most impactful to give physicians and nurses smartphone tools today that help them access information and communicate with other clinicians. Physicians need these tools in order to deliver the best care to their patients. Too many clinicians still don’t have access to efficient communication tools on their mobile devices. A comprehensive communication tool like our own Spok Mobile secure texting app brings together the web directory, on-call schedules, group messaging, call-back buttons and more, all within a secure envelope.

When clinicians are equipped with technology that supports their existing workflows while preserving patient data privacy and security, this is where the magic happens. They can consult with other clinicians via text messages, send and receive test results, provide correct diagnoses to patients, and prescribe an appropriate treatment. The future of medicine is in the smartphone, but there are gaps today in the smartphone capabilities that physicians have at their disposal to improve patient care—and there are solutions for those gaps. How can we better match clinicians with these solutions?

Are you using smartphones to communicate at your hospital? If so, how are you using them? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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By Jim Cikanek, Senior Product Manager
Jim Cikanek is Senior Product Manager, Mobile, at Spok. He specializes in the creation of strong, market-changing products through design, technology, and a little bit of “what if.” His focus over the past five years has been in the mobile arena, and he currently oversees the direction and development of Spok’s secure messaging applications.