Doctor making a house call.
A house call is done from the comfort of your home combined with the personal attention of your doctor. There are two key words here that really drive the point home–home and your. Your doctor provides care in your house. The house call is also, in many ways, a reflection of things past. Today, healthcare has eliminated the ‘luxury’ of this type of intervention leaving patients and caregivers to languish in the germ-fill waiting rooms of physician offices, hospitals and medical clinics.
Telemedicine gains traction
Call your doctor. It’s a healthcare tactic right up there with the house call. But in a similar way, the phone is less and less a tool of engagement and care and more one of frustration. However, telemedicine is moving forward with a broad range of services that can offer care delivered with the power of voice and image. It’s nothing new, but the penetration of smart phones and computers have given telemedicine a fresh perspective. Add to that the expanded acceptance of payors and you have the beginning of more than a trend. It’s the beginning of a consumer movement powered by a financial mandate. MDLive is making important strides in telemedicine. Their recent partnership with Cigna is an indication of how marketing forces are combining with medical needs to reinvent the future.
Devices and data
Devices, in the hands of the consumer, play another important part of the story. New technology will allow the patient or caregiver to take a more active role in the exam and share these data with the ‘physician at a distance’. A practical example of this might be examining your child with a possible ear infection. CellScope, a smartphone device currently in development, allows you to visualize, record and transmit images of the middle ear. This, combined with other clinical data may in the future provide an appropriate body of information for accurate diagnosis and treatment. And, for all involved–Mom, Dad, patient and doctor–a better night’s sleep!
AliveCor, a smartphone ECG, also offers another patient-controlled assessment that can enhance telemedicine. This single-lead ECG can offer added information and help drive certain decisions. In the future, 12-lead ECG recording may provide an even richer ‘cardiac analysis’ including evaluation for chest pain and even a heart attack.
Skepticism, validation and the technological house call
Interestingly, telemedicine and devices may become each other’s best friends. Both can enhance the utility, efficiency and the effectiveness of each other. What emerges is a healthcare provider that is ‘virtually there’ and a patient or caregiver who is active and engaged. It’s medicine, technology and practicality that all come together to establish a new normal for the doctor and patient. And while it might not completely recreate the house call of yesterday, it will reinvent it. And, in some instances where data acquisition, computer analysis, live consultations with multiple physicians and a more timely responses will commit yesterday’s house call to the past. What will come to life is the technological house call that offers the promise of better care and better health.