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Doctor/Patient Relationships 2.0

April 22 2008 – 12:08am

I have a foot injury right now. The bottom of my foot sort of hurts. I could go to the doctor, but I don’t because of a couple of reasons. 1) I already know what he’ll say: “stay off it, keep it elevated, ice it regularly, and take ibuprofen” and 2) because while I’m one of the lucky Americans who has health insurance, my insurance totally blows. A simple checkup would probably cost me about $150.

A couple of weeks ago, I had one of my popular sinus infections. I already knew that I had a sinus infection, and I had just had another one a few months prior. So, I called up the doctor that I saw when I had my last sinus infection, and said “hey doc, I have the exact same symptoms as last time – can you call in a prescription for me?” 30 minutes later, I was picking up my prescription at Walgreens. Instead of costing me something like $300, like my last sinus infection, I got out of this one for about 30. This is what healthcare should be like!

Then it dawned on me. Why is it, with all of this health information that’s available on the web, and all of the new ways that people can interact, that there has been hardly any change in the doctor/patient relationship? Well, I know, that’s a dumb question, but in a more agile world, things would be different. Here’s a potential use case:

– I get another sinus infection.
– I log into a sort of “My Healthcare” interface.
– The interface has quicklinks for some of my most common health problems
– I click on “sinus infection.”
– There’s a check-list of questions, perhaps mentioning some symptoms I may have that may be a sign of a different condition.
– After verifying that I have the correct symptoms for a sinus infection, the system recommends some prescriptions for me.
– I’m given the option to choose other prescriptions that may work. I’m picky about my antibiotics.
– My prescription request is sent to my doctor’s “people” for approval, or possible escalation, and I’m sent status notifications via SMS or e-mail.
– I pick up my prescription. I save time and precious energy, and my doctor is freed up to treat people who actually need his help.

I was once a Kaiser Permanente patient, and they had made some good strides towards “automating” some healthcare processes. I was even able to e-mail my doctor. Still, the experience was far from being like the above.

I would think that with the increasingly prevalent DIY attitude of people, the amount of health information available on the web, the advances in social media, and the outrageous costs of healthcare in America conditions would be ripe for a revolution.

Of course, maybe it’s already happening (very gross video from a member of a spin-off community):

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This post is filed under Health, Ideas, Social Media, Society, Technology.