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Medical Device Apps: Patient as Doctor

Doctor with female patient
Suzanne B. Robotti
Suzanne B. Robotti Executive Director

What devices empower us? Which just fill us with fear? Assuming a baseline of good health, is it helpful to be barraged with medical data? These questions were prompted by an announcement of yet another new medical device for home use. “Scanadu” purports to measure pulse transit time, pulse rate, electrical heart activity, temperature, heart rate variability and blood oxygenation all by touching the forehead with a palm-sized device. The data can also be transmitted to the user’s doctor. (Assuming your doctor is as technically advanced as you.)

The CMO Dr. Alan Green notes in the corporate blog that “everyone should learn their individualized temperature wave in order to catch early warning signs of fever and other temperature-related ailments.” But why? A lift in temperature might encourage a consumer to take an unnecessary medicine. The body is constantly assaulted by germs and the immune system gets stronger by fighting off daily challenges.

Just having a pile of numbers in your hand doesn’t make you a doctor. Passing the info onto your doc is helpful, but unless you and your doc are tracking a chronic issue, I’m not sure how much good that will do.

The company is developing a series of medical device apps, one is a urine-analysis reader. It will test for complications during pregnancy, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, kidney failure and urinary tract infections. These can be life-threatening, fetus-threatening issues, but they are rare. OBs test for them during normal pregnancy visit where other, very important information and assessments occur. I worry that a device giving reassurance on multiple tests might discourage the mom-to-be from taking the time to see her doctor in person. In-person checkups are the opportunity for experienced OBs to ascertain if the pregnant woman is taking care of her nutritional needs, or if she is mentally preparing for motherhood, In-person visits help create a partnership that the laboring woman and doctor will draw upon for a successful birth and for her transition into motherhood.

Scanadu isn’t the only home medical device apps out there — you can also get a home fetal doppler if you want to obsess over your baby’s heartbeat, home blood pressure monitors, a handheld ECG monitor.

Used correctly, under the guidance and in coordination with your doctor, these home health devices can be helpful. But they are not intended to take the place of a primary health provider, Seeing the same doctor, in person, at regular intervals promotes health, lowers hospital visits and should be a right that that we all enjoy.

What do you think? Let me know on Facebook.

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