Chronic Pain: Is There an App for That?

  • Patients are using them, doctors are using them, nurses are using them; more and more people are using smart devices. But not everyone is embracing this new technology. Recently, I heard a patient complaining about a young doctor because he was using a smartphone. She said, "I want to find an older doctor." By "older" did she mean that she wants a doctor who uses a phone without Internet access or a doctor who has gray hair? After spending an hour with this individual, I am not sure either one of us knew what she really wanted.


    Personally, I like to be smarter than the problems. For years, I have been using a mobile device that helps me keep track of patient information, prescriptions and medication information. I don't know how I survived residency medical training without a "second brain." Now, I would be lost without one. Medical professionals who are not using a mobile smart device are really missing an opportunity to enhance their ability to keep track of critical information. Even patients are embracing this technology as a way to keep health records, learn health information and improve health. With this technology, health care professional and health care consumers can merge into the palm of a hand.

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    In the palm of my hand, I have a wealth of information. Thanks to a mobile electronic medical record (EMR) application, I can easily access information at the touch of a finger in the office and on the go. Back in the days prior to smart devices, I kept patient information on index cards in my pocket. EMR programs have eliminated those archaic methods. Today, doctors and nurses can find simple, practical application like iChart EMR to record clinic notes, labs results, and even electronic prescriptions. I still prefer my PalmOS application because iChart does not interface with another one of my favorite applications called Epocrates. This prescription drug application gives me access to the latest medication information about doses, side effects and drug interactions. Others professionals use an application called iPharmacy. No matter which programs are utilized, the combination of an EMR and a prescription drug application can be a godsend for healthcare professionals like me who chose to use the technology at hand.


    And long before this technology existed, we used to rely on heavy books like Netter's Anatomy, Harrison's Manual of Medicine, and the Harriet Lane Handbook. The compact versions were sold to carry in our coats around the hospital. Well, those days are gone thanks to mobile devices. Instead of Netter's, now we have great app's like Visible Body. Wow, anatomy has never looked better in 3D full color images that fit into the palm of a hand. In fact, all of the classic sources of medical information are available in electronic applications. Even medical societies like the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons are using apps to keep members up to date with the latest information. I pity the doctor who is not embracing the world of applications and I pity the patient who is seeing a doctor who is not staying up to date.


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    What about the patients? Are there applications that can help someone who lives with pain? One of my patients swears by an application called RxMindMe. With this program, she can keep track of all her medications like when she took a pill, when it is time to take pill and how many pills she should have left. This type of medication log can be not only a life changer, but a lifesaver too. Other applications can also be just as valuable like the very popular application called LoseIt. With this award winning program according the US Surgeon General, an individual can set weight loss goals, set calorie budgets and create a food journal. When my patients bring their food journals to me, I love to use this information to help them make healthy choices. I like to suggest healthy substitutes or alternatives to less ideal choices that are being made. I like to praise them for positive changes. Healthier choices are also more likely to happen if people use other applications like Fooduate and The Eatery which provide nutrition information about particular foods based on bar codes or pictures.  And for those people who want to quit smoking now in order to feel less pain later, iQuit can guides them down to zero packs per day, one cigarette at a time. In fact, I think I will start prescribing some of these smart applications to patients in order to help both of us work together as a team.


    The world of medicine is improving for both doctors and patients as our worlds merge into the palm of the hand. Our world is done with the older ways of keeping track of information where mistakes are more likely. Now is the time to embrace the future of health and medical technology with the smart devices. The applications open up a whole new world, free from heavy books and paper records, where solutions can be found at our fingertips.  If there is knowledge to be gained or a problem to be solved, then chances are that, yes, there is an app for that.


Published On: March 12, 2012