We’ve only had smartphone technology for a little over a decade and yet about 36 percent of the worldwide population is using it. We use it for just about everything, everyday. We talk, text, listen to music, play games, learn, and photograph practically everything we do. With over five million apps available between Android and Apple, there’s not much they can’t be used for. We’re even using apps to monitor our health and communicate with our doctors. At this point, it’s safe to say, most of us can no longer imagine our lives without our personal devices.
As a doctor, patients are always asking me what apps they should be using. And honestly, even I’m using smart technology to diagnose, treat and help my patients with their health problems. New apps are being created all the time. So joining me in this episode are experts, app creators, and patients who have benefitted. I can’t wait to share some smart technology that could one day save your life.
For 20 years, Aneela Idnani hid a mental health condition that had her literally pulling out her hair. Trichotillomania is classified as an obsessive-compulsive related disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. The condition leads people to constantly pull on their own hair, including eyelashes, eyebrows, beards and body hair. Aneela shares how stress exacerbated her condition and the lengths she went to to hide it. Even her own husband had no idea, “I would get up in the morning and get my makeup on before he would see me,” she says, she also went to bed wearing her makeup. Then, she tells me, the day came when she didn’t get the makeup on before being seen by her husband.
Aneela explains how, after her husband’s initial shock, the self-described technophiles set out to find a solution. They created a bracelet and app that connect through Bluetooth. Aneela gets a signal when she makes an undesirable hand or arm motion. We discuss how this technology is giving her more control over her condition.
The author of seven books about the future of technology, Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurist’s on global trends and innovation. Daniel tells me that health innovations with technology are on track to becoming more and more personalized in the future. “Think of it as Siri or Alexa, but a mobile health concierge desk,” he says, “Instead of having to touch things and look at screens and read, increasingly, it’ll know you.” So rather than just general information, you’ll get an answer that’s personal to you, Daniel says. We also talk about how people are already using health apps to lose weight, get off cholesterol drugs, monitor diabetes, and more. You’ll hear how surgery patients are going home with diagnostic trackers that alert their doctor if a problem develops.
Dr. Kim Coleman is the founder of My ePhysicians, a telemedicine option that’s making it easier for you to see your doctor. She says that far from interfering with the face-to-face patient/physician connection, telemedicine will fill in the gaps, helping you access your doctor at times when you can’t get into the office. Dr. Coleman explains that telemedicine is basically a broader application of the technology in healthcare that we’re already using, like wearable devices. Using a Skype-like platform you actually do get to see your doctor. Dr. Coleman and I talk about how the telemedicine option is currently being used, “So far most of the application for this has been in behavioral health and mental health,” Dr. Coleman tells me, “and it makes sense. A lot of that is sitting and talking.”
But, Dr. Coleman shares the ways in which, she believes, telemedicine will make inroads into physical healthcare as well. While she admits she can’t actually touch a patient to check their abdomen, for example, or listen to them through a stethoscope, Dr. Coleman says, “They estimate somewhere in the range of 30 percent to 40 percent of what we do every day could be done via telemedicine.” In addition, she tells me, it’s better for a patient to access her through telemedicine, where she can tell them if they need an in-person visit or even to get to a hospital; rather than to have patients sitting at home because they don’t have any guidance.
Maryann SmalI was diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer, she endured six surgeries, including reconstruction over a two year period. After chemotherapy, radiation, and all the surgeries, Maryann tells me that she thought she was in the clear. Then she was told she needed to take an aromatase inhibitor, a drug that is a key part of cancer treatment for postmenopausal women. Maryann shares the shock she got when her drug cost jumped from $50 to $1,200 for a 90 day supply, “I put my head on my desk and I cried because, quite frankly, after all the medical expenses,” she shares, “at the time I was diagnosed, my two daughters were in college.”
Enter Ken Majkowski and the FamilyWize app. It was created by nurse Susan Barnes and her husband Dan for their local community in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 12 years ago. Ken explains how FamilyWize has become a nationwide phenomenon with the help of the United Way. Working with pharmacy benefit managers, FamilyWize has aggregated over 10 million customers, giving them negotiating power over pharmacy prices. Maryann tells me, her drug cost dropped by a whopping 67 percent. Ken and I discuss how anybody can get the FamilyWize app for free, you just have to download it.
Here in the Midwest, it’s hard for us to imagine 200-per-mile hour winds, catastrophic flooding, no power, spoiled food, no gas, and nowhere to go. But, that’s just what happened to our friends in Texas, Louisiana, and in Florida during the fall of 2017. However, one simple but powerful app helped save tens of thousands of lives. Bill Moore, Chief Executive of Zello, and Alaina Hebert from what’s known as Cajun Navy share with me all about what happened. Zello is a walkie-talkie app, used by 120 million people worldwide, Bill says. It’s basically radio technology, “We have thousands and thousands of people on these channels, and so you can get information to a broad group very quickly.” he explains.
Alaina was at her father’s place when the flooding started, “Everybody was requesting help and nobody seemed to be giving an answer,” she tells me, “so I started calling EOCs and POCs and just gathering my own information and made a channel called Cajun Navy on Zello.” Alaina says she was able to use the app to pinpoint the locations of people who needed help, and then dispatched their addresses to boaters who would go and rescue them. Alaina tells me she didn’t sleep for two weeks and was able to help over 20,000 people by using the Zello app. I know you’ll love hearing her personal story!