Practicing Medicine with Dr Google

       You see the cartoons and hear the jokes all the time.
“Patients will be charged extra for any diagnoses found on the internet”
“Do not confuse your google search with my medical degree”google pic
       Even some of my patients will apologize to me in the exam room before they tell me about the internet research they have done. It seems every one understands that doctors have a profound dislike for their patients reaching out to Dr Google.
       Do you know what I say when a patient tells me they found some thing they think is medically important on the internet?
       “Good. Lets see what you found.”
       Investigating symptoms and conditions on the internet is a signal that these patients are involved in their own health.  They care enough to spend some time thinking about their symptoms and their bodies.  I would ask those doctors who crack jokes about patients searching the web, “Would you prefer your patient didn’t care at all?”
       When a patient brings me a list of information from the internet, several wonderful events can happen. First, those patients have often thought a lot about their symptoms and what is happening to their bodies.  That provides me as the clinician with a nice medical history.  We can also talk about what kind of websites they are using and how to seek out those that are more reputable.  That makes the patient more efficient and better informed.  Being a partner with a patient validates their decisions.  Today it is researching a condition on the internet.  Tomorrow it may be exercise or nutrition changes.
       As a doctor, talking them through their own medical research acknowledges to the patient that we really are a team.  And the truth is that sometimes, the patient is right.  These patients are not questioning my medical authority.  They just want to feel better.  It’s my job to help them get there.  Great clinicians use whatever tools are needed to heal their patients, whether that is a stethoscope, a CT scan, a good bedside manner or even Dr Google.

Sworkit App Update

For those of us who want to go into the weekend focusing on the health of our bodies, there are a couple other versions of the Sworkit App that might be of interest to you.

There are several versions of the Sworkit App you can download for free (premium option without ads) that target a specific muscle group.  The options include focused exercises for Abs and Core, Butt and Arms/Chest/Shoulders.  There is an advanced Stretching and Pilates version as well.

All these apps are free and complement the main version of Sworkit quite well.

Digital Health can (quietly) change lives

    Recently I have seen a lot of headlines about fitness trackers that tell the story of how a wearable saved someones life.  For instance the heart rate monitor on a wearable showed a recording of an intermittent heart rhythm issue that wasn’t obvious while that patient was in the hospital.  That changed the course of that patients medical care and it makes a cool story.  fitness tracker picture
     But fitness trackers can change lives in much more subtle ways.  An experience I had in my own office made that clear the other day.  I have been watching for several years as one of my patient’s blood sugar has trended up.  It got to the point that I told her diabetes was imminent.  She felt like she was doing everything she could and was resigned to the inevitable diagnosis of diabetes.
     A co-worker had suggested to her that a wearable fitness tracker might help her, as it had helped him lose weight.  She was open to anything but as she later told me, she did not believe it would make much of a difference.  Even though she considered herself “heavy” she believed she was very active and was likely close to 8,000 steps a day anyway.  What difference could tracking that be?
     The patient admitted to me that she was shocked to find that after a week of wearing a fitness tracker, she was barely averaging 2,000 steps a day!  For years she had the false impression of activity, that she was an “active” person.  Then the reality of the true level of her health was inescapable.
     Now she is really focused on her health.  Tracking her steps and activity are a big component of her plan.  She needed the cold hard feedback that only her fitness tracker provided.  Now her blood sugar is better, not perfect, but better.  Though her story is not sensational enough to make headlines, if more people could use a digital health tool like a fitness tracker to take stock of their true and not perceived level of activity they could make better choices for their health moving forward.

April 2016 Companion App

Companion

What it is: A mobile app that helps to manage stress and anxiety with guided imagery, breathing techniques and self directed cognitive behavioral therapy.

headline

What devices: iPhones and Ipads

Cost: Free

Who should use it: Anyone who wants to limit stress and anxiety

Why use it:  All of us go through times where we wish we could control our stress and anxiety.  For some, this is a daily issue.  There are many ways to try to treat these and many times healthcare professionals are needed for psychotherapy or medication.  For milder symptoms and to add to current treatments with your physician, you can use the Companion app.  This app provides many tools and information to help relieve stress and anxiety using biofeedback and cognitive behavioral techniques.

The Companion app can lead you through guided mindfulness exercises to help facilitate a more relaxed state.  It also has a section that uses the biofeedback techniques to regulate breathing.  This can be used both acutely for anxious moments and regularly for prevention and mindfulness training.  Many health benefits of regulated breathing to create heart rate variability have been documented and the Companion App is a great way to use them anywhere you are.

There are several options within the app to help people reframe negative thoughts.  There is a whole section on reframing negative thoughts into more constructive thoughts or actions.  There is a way to create photo cards to help stimulate your mind during anxious or reflective moments.

If there is one downside to this app, I don’t feel like it is as organized as it could be.  Navigating the app takes some time to learn and the placement of different activities through out the app is not intuitive.

Overall this is a great digital health app to help anyone live a more stress and anxiety free life.

Zika Virus Mobile App

As we move into the summer months here in the United States, there is going to be more and more discussion of mosquitos and the Zika Virus.  There is now a great mobile app for your phone that has a collection of information from the World Health Organization.  This app would be great for any one involved with healthcare or for anyone who wants to stay up to date on issues surrounding this virus’s activity.  This free download is available at iTunes.

ZIKA APP