Health Care 2.0
A diagnosis from your smart phone. Your doc on Twitter. Wi-fi diabetes management. Like so much in our lives, managing our health care is going online, going mobile, and going to drive you crazy if you can’t keep up.
Illustrations by Peter and Maria Hoey
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A diagnosis from your smart phone. Your doc on Twitter. Wi-fi diabetes management. Like so much in our lives, managing our health care is going online, going mobile, and going to drive you crazy if you can’t keep up. Check out the apps, sites, docs, and services that are shaping the way you get and stay healthy.
East Bay hospitals are starting to deliver patients’ medical records—and more—straight to their web browser.
Beginning last year, Kaiser Permanente patients received online prompts based on their medical records. So, don't be surprised on your 50th birthday, if among your e-cards is a reminder that you’re due for a colonoscopy.
Every major health group is investing millions in e-health records, so patients can access their medical history and even schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, and track test results online.
"In the past, your record was on paper and only one doctor could see it," says Eric Saff, John Muir Health Center's Vice President. "With electronic health records, doctors can see your record anywhere in the world. This makes patients much safer. We're also starting to send test results directly to patients, and even allowing doctors to comment on those results."
Also changing is the way health information is gathered. Palo Alto Medical Foundation, with clinics in Pleasanton, Livermore, and Dublin, asks diabetes patients to wear monitors that record their blood sugar levels and wirelessly relay that data online. Albert Chan, M.D., the foundation’s online medical director, hopes that real-time monitoring will lead to more effective care.
By the Numbers: The relationship between health care and
the Internet in the last 10 years.
|THEN: (2000) |
of Americans had access to the Internet.
searched online for health information.
found this health information useful.
|NOW: (2009) |
of Americans have access to the Internet.
search online for health information.
have been helped or know someone who was
helped by following medical advice or
health information found on the Internet.
As more doctors go online, two East Bay pediatricians
are leading the way, reaching out to patients
through social networking.
Two East Bay doctors are among many professionals wresting the web away from pill marketers and quacks, and using it for a legitimate exchange of information with patients. Rina Shah and her husband, Rahul Parikh, are pediatricians who blog and tweet, all while balancing work, marriage, and raising a 22-month-old daughter.
The two tweeting docs met on a blind date when they were medical students in Southern California. Married since 2003, they both practice locally—Shah in private practice in Vallejo and Parikh at Kaiser’s Walnut Creek Medical Center. Shah tweets under the moniker TheDrMommy and writes at her blog, Confessions of a Doctor Mommy. Parikh tweets (docrkp), writes a health-care blog on Salon.com, and regularly contributes columns to the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and San Francisco Chronicle.
So, why tweet when you have the New York Times? Parikh wants to be part of the revolution taking place in health information. When patients first Googled their symptoms, the results were “basically static,” he says.
“Web 2.0 has become a way for individuals to interact with information. On Twitter and Facebook, people don’t just share information, but add some insight to it,” says Parikh. “Web 2.0 is a way that people can talk about their health. Not just read about it.”
For example, if a patient needs more information on a given subject, Shah can direct the person to one of her blog posts. Need more clarity? Leave a comment.
“I like to blog because it allows me to connect to my patients and give them info that’s valuable and important to them,” she says. “I find that it builds trust.”
Take a tweet from Parikh during last year's swine flu scare. He posted an update on when he’d be available at Kaiser’s flu tent, where potentially contagious people were diagnosed outside the hospital. Thanks to that tip, a mother was able to bring her ailing daughter, a longtime patient of Parikh’s, to see a familiar face. Not bad for just 140 characters.
Health Tip e-Understanding
If you haven’t asked your doctor already, check to see if he or she is available by e-mail to answer non-urgent medical questions. It's also best to discuss some basic parameters about what information and questions you’d be comfortable sending via e-mail, and whether you can send digital photos. Thanks to an e-mailed photo, Rahul Parikh, M.D., of Kaiser Walnut Creek Medical Center, was able to identify an infant’s red blotch as baby acne, giving the baby’s mother instant peace of mind.