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Apps Democratizing Health Care


Health care apps are slowly becoming an established feature of our health care system. The WSJ has a good list of some of the most popular ones already being used by doctors and patients. Some improve or aid diagnostics on the doctor side, others empower the patients by encouraging preventative care. Here’s one that can help curb medical overuse:

CELLSCOPE OTO: A smartphone becomes an otoscope, the instrument doctors use to look into the ear, thanks to this app and optical device. Doctors say it’s useful for recording videos of a child’s ear and then showing the images to family members to explain their diagnosis.

Jessica Kaplan, a pediatrician in San Francisco, says that can help cut down on unnecessary use of antibiotics. When parents see an image of a child’s ear at an initial visit and again at a follow-up appointment, they realize “Oh, wow, we didn’t need antibiotics,” says Dr. Kaplan, who says she has used the CellScope Oto in her practice for about six months

Most of these apps aren’t anywhere near perfected yet. One displays X-Rays, but the image resolution isn’t good enough yet to make diagnoses from. Another is a diagnostic aid app that can’t really weight different symptoms to come up with a more nuanced diagnosis. Their potential is not yet fully realized. But if these apps’ efficacy and usefulness improves, as surely it will, we’ll be well on our way to democratizing and economizing health care in a meaningful way. And ultimately, it’s developments like these that will help bend the cost curve—not massive and complex bureaucratic fixes like Obamacare.

[Hospital technology image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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