Putting Apps in Your Treatment Plan

robinfriedlander_30_1.6So far this year 23 new digital apps and devices have been cleared by the FDA, and 69 percent of doctors believe patients should be using such apps and devices to assist with diagnosis. In this regard, we are living in a new frontier, where digital tech is changing the doctor-patient relationship for the better, powering new health behaviors, and lowering cost by making healthcare more efficient.

Yet from what I have seen, despite notoriously being “gadget” people, the majority of doctors are not regularly talking to their patients about tech.

Sure, you’ve got the Eric Topols and Patrick Soon-Shiongs of the world – but by and large, it seems only a handful of us are adopting many of these technologies for ourselves. I suspect that at least some of this has to do with the pressure we feel to only recommend the best, most evidence-backed solutions.

In today’s Wild West of 100,000+ health and wellness apps, evidence-based choices can be hard to pick out.

Yet to get to the world many of us envision – where digital technology is as empowering to our ability to provide quality healthcare as it is to our daily communication with our friends from med school – we need to start talking about it with patients.

These are four of my favorite health apps and devices right now for physicians to recommend to patients to use between appointments. They drive self-awareness and equip people with tools to live a healthier lifestyle. They also cost little to nothing, provide lasting educational benefit even if only used once or twice, and – certainly – do no harm.

A medication reminder and tracking app like Mango Health. With 70 percent of Americans taking at least one prescription medication and 20 percent taking more than five, I believe it is our responsibility as doctors to help patients manage this reality. That means knowing for themselves which drugs they are taking, what the dose is and what interactions that drug can have, and of course if they have drug allergies. We can’t take their pills for them but if we are prescribing them we need to help our patients own this information in a usable way.

A meditation app like Headspace or Brain Wave. Headspace is one of my favorites for lead meditation, and Brainwave is another option for people who like binaural beats. Apps are a great way to meditate on the go, from the train to the car to waiting in line for coffee. Choices like these remove that barrier of finding time to engage in mindfulness, a tool that’s been proven to decrease stress, improve concentration, and even lower blood pressure.

A scale and blood pressure monitory like Withings:  I truly believe that assuming the task of taking your own weight and blood pressure can be an intervention in and of itself. For patients trying to lose weight and manage blood pressure, being able to see their vital signs beautifully visualized and tracked over time can be eye-opening – and motivating.

 Healthcare is moving out of the doctor’s office into the community, where people live, work, eat, and sleep. That is where, ultimately, an individual’s health is determined for better or worse. These kinds of tools are powering the transformation.

Robin Berzin, MD is a functional medicine doctor practicing in New York City, and the creator of Table, a food-based detox program that gives people the tools to eat for optimal health. She is a graduate of Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and is the co-founder of Cureatr, a mobile messaging platform for health care providers. She launched a new conference series on consumer health for Health 2.0, and speaks regularly about the intersection of health care and technology at conferences and in the media including the Clinton Foundation, the Evolution of Medicine Summit, and Vice

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  1. Absolutely agree with Berzin. With the advances in information technology it is becoming increasingly cheaper to treat or prevent diseases. It will also help patients to discuss diabetes with doctor and plan their care.

  2. Not only can medical apps help patients diagnose health conditions and measure and maintain current conditions, but some apps can actually help patients cut costs after a doctor visit which is incredibly helpful given the influx of high-deductible health plans. Some cost-cutting medical apps include prescription saving apps like LowRx, WeRx and LowestMed.

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