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Imagine a face-to-face interaction with your doctor without haggling over the time of your appointment, avoiding the waiting room and avoiding exposure to other patients. Although this is not sufficient for acutely ill patients, many patients do not require an in-person evaluation by their physician.

As the notion of the healthcare consumer evolves, the long-delayed application of modern technology that allows a doctor-to-video conference with patients is finally being applied, and even accepted as a proper form of care. In parallel, smartphone attachments are turning cell phones and “wearables” into traditional doctors’ tools that allow vital-sign recording, activity logging, heart-rhythm tracing and many other forms of in-depth physical examination.

The world of Health IT is evolving — fast — and the prospect of a virtual doctor visit becoming as well accepted as a traditional office appointment. It is not far-fetched, but in fact is the most appropriate care for many patients.

This tech trend is building as our overall healthcare landscape changes with the Affordable Care Act. Despite its setback at the outset, 10 percent of Americans may eventually obtain some form of “health insurance” under the new plan. This influx of patients may increase already overburdened doctors’ offices. and subsequently push more individuals into taking their sore throat to the hospital because they can’t get an appointment with their physician. To this aim, the truest application of the virtual visit is for the patient  to be reassured that nothing ominous or malignant is going on. Reassurance drives a significant portion of doctor visits.

By listening to our patients every day, my partners and I identified a need in the population and worked to fill the gap specifically in the area of physical therapy. Physical therapy is one of the most over-prescribed interventions in modern medicine. We spend about $27 billion on it in the United States each year. Some patients do require the direct supervision of a physical therapist.

But for an even greater number of patients, an unsupervised home exercise therapy program is the best initial treatment. Our service, SimpleTherapy, provides an automated, yet user-specific exercise therapy program that can be done with common household items. The site provides exercise therapy that can be done on your schedule, in your home. SimpleTherapy is not for everyone, but it is worth a try before a traditional visit.

As we all know, one person’s health is completely different from another’s. A one-size-fits-all approach is likely to end up dead on arrival and waste healthcare dollars. A product’s ability to derive pertinent information about an individual user ultimately stands to have the largest impact.

Our approach has been to offer a simple questionnaire that complies with HIPAA and is minimally invasive, but still obtains the necessary information to direct certain people to their doctor before they begin a home exercise program. Maintaining the trust of our members has to be our chief objective — and that goes for the industry as a whole.

We all now understand that we have to apply technology to relieve some of the cost pressures in healthcare. By doing so, we will make doctors and therapists more accessible to everyone. Consumer technology will never fully replace the traditional visit to a doctor’s office, but through responsible innovation we, as a community, could make taking care of ourselves a whole lot easier.

How do you feel about technology taking a larger hand in healthcare?

Dr. Nic Gay is the co-founder of SimpleTherapy.


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