A few years back I was going through something personal. I was in desperate need of someone to talk to: someone who could provide me help and advice. And because certain things crept up at different times — not to mention my overwhelming fear of face-to-face interaction — email correspondence was the best course of action.
Of course I’m talking about talking to my doctor.
With my former employer, I was a Kaiser Permanente patient — and I have to say, despite the negative perceptions at first, I loved it. It was the first time in my life that I really felt connected to network of health professionals. And it was a great deal because of their relationship with health technology.
I was able to email not only my primary care doctor, but nurse practitioners, specialists and so on. And I was able to log on to a website to check lab results, compare them with previous tests, and refill prescriptions.
“Getting an email from your doctor is like getting an email from a celebrity,” Derek Kosiorek, a consultant at the Medical Group Management Association, told me recently in an interview. “You really feel like someone is paying attention to you that you highly respect.”
That’s an accurate statement — at least for me, whose feelings about emailing my doctor in the past have been fairly embarrassing.
Of course, email is nothing new. But it is relatively new, and scarce, in the medical world, and that’s a problem.
This isn’t even about crazy new technologies startups are developing that eventually will change the medical field once doctors and other medical offices begin to embrace them. It’s about an easy form of communication that has the potential to change how patients view their health.
It couldn’t be easy or more efficient. There’s no waiting around for phone calls that need to be taken in a private, safe place. There’s no holding or disrupting of office time. It’s more convenient for both patient and doctor.
The best part about health technology is getting patients more involved and more engaged in their own health care. There are a lot of flaws in our health care system, but one of our biggest societal detriments is that some people simply don’t care enough or are proactive enough about their own health.
If we as patients have the potential to use an app to look up health tools or enter or caloric intake or get our questions answered by a professional, then it’s a step in the right direction.
And if an admitted technophobe can do it and like it, I’m pretty certain any of us can — including the guys in the white coats.