Technological Advances and Preventive Medicine Moving Consumer Health Forward

Guest post by Matt Smith.

Consumer health technology is attracting a lot of supporters on the business and medical ends of the spectrum because some of the more recent advances in this area are making it possible for people to be more proactive about their own health and initiate preventive measures. Awareness is a major component of effective prevention, and when consumers have the ability to discover any potential problems before they get out of hand, it can potentially save them a lot of money and improve their overall health status.

The question, then, is how companies can empower consumers to take responsibility for their own health through accurate and convenient information.

The resources that are scattered around the Internet would seem like the most obvious choice, but the problem there is that a consumer can just as easily base his or her decision on the large amount of misinformation that is circulating in and around the data that could really help them understand their condition.

A patient won’t prevent a thing if they misdiagnose their own problems. Even then, simply determining the potential problem doesn’t automatically suggest the appropriate answer or treatment. There have, however, been some technological advances that can address these concerns.

Making Reliable Technology Available
If the Internet isn’t the most reliable source, then, what other options are available? How can consumers find the best information and make sure they get an accurate diagnosis without actually going to the doctor?

One of the options that is growing in popularity is the on-site kiosk that looks at a range of potential health problems. Machines like the SoloHealth Station have been allowing millions of consumers to get a free and fast health screening when they would not likely take the time to go and see a healthcare provider in person. This means they can get a better understanding of their own situation and immediately receive actionable suggestions for preventive care.

This kind of self-diagnosis is not exactly new, though. So the question is: What recent changes are helping it fit better into the modern healthcare environment?

Addressing Current Events
This kind of on-site technology is generally trying to address some of the other factors that could hinder a person’s motivation or ability to seek treatment. One of the most common stumbling blocks has been the lack of insurance or simply not understanding their coverage. Now that open enrollment in the new Affordable Care Act has started, and families and individuals are required to have major medical health insurance that meets specific federal standards, it has left even more people questioning their options.

Recently, SoloHealth revealed that it is helping to address those issues by working with another partner to bring more options to consumer health technology. The company is now working with eHealth Inc. to help consumers discover and select insurance plans that fit their needs. The partnership makes eHealth’s plan selection and comparison tools available, in selected geographies, to many of the more than 130,000 people who use the SoloHealth Stations.

In other words, in the same location where a consumer might discover that they need to visit a doctor, they can also learn what their options are for dealing with those concerns. What insurance plans will cover their needs? What doctors in the area have the skills and expertise to provide the help you need?

The new requirements under the federal health laws are expected to put even more demand on primary caregivers, which, in turn, is causing more interest in cheaper, simpler technology to address the patients’ concerns. This is possibly one of the reasons for the interest in these “self-service” kiosks, which can help improve awareness of health conditions, connect patients with local doctors, and help them explore their health insurance options.

These SoloHealth Stations are designed to deliver free and convenient healthcare information. They use a simple, engaging interface and allow patients to quickly screen their vision, blood pressure, weight and BMI. The entire process takes less than seven minutes, so people who have been concerned about their health, but don’t have the time (or don’t believe they have the time) to see a doctor, can begin taking actions that will lead to more preventive measures. With these new advances and additions to the kiosks, it is helping people determine their health and wellness and face the insurance issues with a little more knowledge.

The Next Advances
As “self-service” kiosks become more ubiquitous, many more technological advances will soon start helping patients prevent problems before they can happen. The current trends are pointing toward wearable sensors and personal genomics that will allow doctors to quickly access the necessary information and make more accurate diagnoses. Theoretically, these sensors could constantly send information to the healthcare providers, so they can proactively recommend preventive medicines (which, of course, would also bring up a range of privacy issues, but that’s something to deal with another time).

This kind of communication between healthcare providers and patients will likely become a core component of much of the next technological advances. Whether it is just to remind a patient to take or refill their prescriptions or just to check up on how the treatment is going, this will lead to a sudden increase in data volume that they providers will need to deal with. Many of the advances in consumer technology, then, will also be about helping those companies deal with this increasing level of digital information.

Not a Replacement, but a Preventive
These kiosks, new connections to healthcare providers, and other technological advances are not meant to replace a doctor examination. They are simply designed to provide fast, free screenings to people who may otherwise not seek help from their healthcare providers.

Sometimes, asking questions is one of the hardest things for people to do. They don’t want to admit that they are lacking the medical or financial knowledge they need to determine whether or not it’s time to see a doctor (or if they have the coverage to do so). However, getting the answers to those questions is the first step toward preventing any minor conditions from becoming huge problems. These kiosks and other advances are making it possible to get those answers and really make informed decisions.

What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments below.

Matt Smith works for Dell and has a passion for everything healthcare-technology related. Outside of work he enjoys entrepreneurship, being with his family, and the outdoors.

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