Tech Treatment: More Doctors Going Mobile

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AVON, Ohio — Anna Burns loves to get in the spirit of the holidays, but while decorating her yard in December, she had a big fall.

“I hurt my shoulder and it kept hurting,” she said. “After a month had gone by, I better go and see the doctor and see if it’s healing, if it’s typical.”

During a consultation, she was surprised to see her doctor whip out his cell phone during the session.

“He was able to tell me with the help of his phone with pictures, what’s exactly going on in my shoulder, how the muscles are, which he normally would have had to look up in a book, I suppose,” Anna said.

Her family physician, Dr. John Alfes, said more doctors are using mobile apps to treat patients.

“As a doctor in primary care, we have to know a little bit about everything, and it’s not always in the back of our memory banks, so at times we have to look things up,” he said.

Alfes, of Kaiser Permanente of Avon, said he’s used smartphone technology to look up health conditions and different medications. He prescribes 500 different drugs to patients. The apps are only available to doctors, he said.

“This gives me a point of care reference that, without going back to my office or looking in a textbook or going online, I can get a quick answer,” Alfes said. “And frankly, I like to show the patient. They like that. I can show them, this is how common your condition is.”

Alfes said when it comes to a complicated diagnosis, an extra visual is a great learning tool.

“Explaining what’s wrong with a rotator cuff isn’t necessarily that easy to understand what muscles, what tendons are involved,” he said. “So, rather than try to explain it, a picture’s worth a thousand words. I can pull this out and show a patient what exactly they need to know.”

Anna said she’s impressed with the way technology has shaped her visits, and Alfes said it’s helped improve relationships with his patients.

“For me, conditions that I don’t see all the time, this gives me quick point-of-care answers, and then the patients feel like, ‘Wow, my doctor’s up-to-date,'” Alfes said. “It’s invaluable.”

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