by DYLAN J. CHADWICK
“When will we wise up and stop calling the tiny computers in our pockets ‘phones?’” sighs the distraught geek on the internet, in your office, or on your Facebook timeline. Of course he’s absolutely right about it, even if a little bit prosaic. The “phone” function of our smartphones really only accounts for a small fraction of its total functionality, and NO ONE needs to comment on the ubiquity of these things anymore. Our pocket computers can do most everything our desktop and laptop computers can, and they're uniquely portable and capable of transferring data across (nearly) infinite distances. These little devils also have a steady hand in constantly updating the way that virtually every occupation functions, sometimes just in the nuts and bolts and sometimes drastically.
Medicine isn’t the only industry bolstered by technology of course, but in an era where “smart wearables” is legitimate terminology and not something plucked from an Asimov novel, it’s one of the job sectors where we find technical innovation at its most nascent. Each year, small innovations, tweaks and upgrades take complicated medical tools and processes and streamline them for patients and physicians. Electronic aspirin? Ouchless Digital vein finders? 3D-Printed skin? That stuff is as real as the driverless cars they'll be trundling off the production runways soon, just you wait!
The thing about technology though, not just medical technology but in any specialty, is that innovation doesn't occur in a vacuum. It's expensive and time intensive, and in a job space where said technology directly and indirectly influences a person's wellbeing, must satisfy numerous QA details before receiving approval. To put it bluntly, this is a good principle. The last thing we want is some untested piece of medical equipment being trotted off the factory floor. However, there's a caveat to this idea, one for which many in the industry have become critical of what they feel is an “unnecessarily complex approval process” from the Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC). As it stood in 2013, most critics stated that the over complicated approval system “impeded” medical innovation and literally stunted the availability of quality health care to those who need it. To combat these negative assessments, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a “rebranded” MDIC and vowed to simplify the approval process, gather information from industry heads, government officials and nonprofit organizations, and to prioritize the regulatory science of approving technology.
By gathering all these industry thought leaders to collaborate and leverage their individual resources, "MDIC may help the industry to be better equipped to bring safe and effective medical devices to market more quickly and at a lower cost," said Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
This conscious rebranding has put many in high spirits, anxiously awaiting the promising medical technologies and streamlined medical processes to come, theoretically faster, which will reduce obstacles and anxieties and improve the capacity and scope of health care.
In today's climate where medical innovation receives mainstream attention from every angle, including commercial outlets, we should note the developments of one specific technological subset, one that's been growing exponentially despite MDIC holdups: mobile technology.
As we anticipate new medical technologies to come, let's acknowledge the developers, code-monkeys and innovators seeking to make medicine a better place, on both patient and physician sides, on our pocket-sized computers.
Seeking to see or learn about rare or not so rare conditions? Figure 1 offers a great app that allows physicians to view and share medical images with other physicians. Figure 1 touts hundreds of thousands of users send, comment, and search medical images within its database. The app is fee to download and use. Worried about HIPPA compliance? The app guarantees patient privacy with face-blocking and removal of other identifying information.
One of the primary holdups in medical app development, as well as medical work on public social media, are the HIPAA implications that accompany contacting patients outside of the office and relative vulnerabilities that come with transferring data. Essentially, Doximity is a physician sanctioned and designed social network that currently claims 80 percent of the U.S. physician workforce as members.
It's a platform for users to communicate with fellow physicians on the network, sharing medical specific information, work accomplishments, sending HIPAA secure faxes and also follow trends and developments within their specific medical specialty. The opportunity to communicate smoothly and with all your contacts consolidated into one easy-to-use platform, along with the protection of HIPAA lends a tremendous amount of utility to the app, as well as an indicator for things to come. I mean, do you really think physicians will still use pagers in 10 years?
Physicians seeking an app that can consolidate all their medical calculation software into one digestible format may find what they're looking for in QXMD Calculate. It utilizes a sleek user interface which highlights point of care tools like cardiology, internal medicine, nephrology, general practice, hematology, gastroenterology, emergency medicine, oncology, orthopedics, respirology, neurology and many more, while serving to help physicians make quality diagnoses towards treatment and prognosis determination.
It bills itself as more than a simple "calculator" but more a "decision support tool" which features 150 unique calculators and support prompts, freely available to the medical community. Furthermore, it's a veritable library, integrating seamlessly with PubMed data for physicians and tomes upon tomes of peer-reviewed medical journal information for cross-referencing and citation.
With such utility and scope, and a non-existent price tag, QXMD is the kind of app that strictly qualifies as "must have" for physicians in any specialty.
Whether it's shiny, new technology that shapes the way we administer shots, or that simply puts physicians in secure contact with other physicians, mobile software is continually the most promising frontier for medical technology innovation. It's the kind of technology that makes physicians more capable and patients more empowered, the very tenants upon which medical innovations are built.
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DYLAN J. CHADWICK
Staff Writer, Physicians Office Resource.