Last weekend, both my sons woke up with fevers and sore throats. I am sure many moms and dads can relate to this situation. Luckily, I am a physician, so packed them up in the car, drove to my office and gave them strep tests. When the tests came back positive I called in antibiotics to the pharmacy and picked up the medication on our way home. By 9 am, my sons were on the couch having just had their first dose of antibiotics.
Not everyone is a doctor or has one in the family. But the promise of Digital Medicine is that in the future it may feel like everyone has a doctor in family. Digital Health can be a great equalizer for all patients, potentially allowing access to information, advice, medical testing and treatments. Why shouldn’t a patient have the ability to research and test their own symptoms? Who knows their symptoms better than the person experiencing them? All at the convenience of the patient, not the healthcare facility open between 8 and 5, Monday through Friday.
Wouldn’t it be great to know if your son or daughter had a high or low likelihood of Strep on a Saturday morning? Physicians use Pre-test probability all the time. This is the idea that given a certain set of symptoms and findings, what is the likelihood that a person has a condition before you test for it. It can help guide testing, treatment and predict the presence of a medical condition. Pre-test Probability might not be something that everyone thinks about, but with mobile health at your fingertips, you may be able to solve.
A certain set of symptoms may mean that Strep is very likely and another that Strep is much less likely. (In fact any physicians reading this will probably wonder why I even performed a strep test on my sons if they had a high Pre-Test Probability.) Ultimately this will allow worried parents and sick children a better way to make a good medical decision.
Digital Health has the potential to limit healthcare costs as well by eliminating some needless appointments and medications. Using a mobile app or website to provide realistic and evidence based options can allow patients to make better decisions. In the strep example, should parents take their sick child in to an Urgent Care right away on Saturday morning or can they wait 24 or 48 hours and treat conservatively. To find out that Strep is unlikely and viral illness that can be treated at home is more likely, saves time, money and worry.
To be able to empower a patient or a parent on making a better, more informed decision about their own health, that is what Digital Health means to me.
What it is: A mobile app that provides pricing information on prescription drugs.
What devices: iPhones, iPads, Android devices
Who should use it: People without health insurance or prescription drug coverage, those with high deductible plans and anyone looking to save money on prescription drugs.
Why use it: GoodRx is a a mobile app that allows you to search for better prices on medications. Users of the app can search for specific medications, dosages and quantities. The app then lists a series of nearby pharmacies and the prices of the medication searched. These are either cash prices or with a coupon from the GoodRx discount program. For those who have no insurance or limited drug coverage, this can be quite beneficial for many medications. Users can see the major pharmacies in their area and find the lowest price. The lowest price may not be at their regular pharmacy and the GoodRx app shows this.
There are many other features of the app, including refill reminders and alerts on your saved medication lists that show you when a price has changed. If you need it there is a pill identifier as well as a section for each medication to learn about that medications uses, chemistry, dosing, safety and potential interactions.
If you have a good health insurance plan, the benefits from insurance are probably better than any deal from GoodRx. When I spoke to pharmacists about this app, that was what they told me over and over. I did find some really interesting discrepancies in pricing. Within 4 miles, two pharmacies around my neighborhood offered Losartan/HCTZ at prices that differed by $80. That is a significant difference for someone who might be struggling to afford their medications.