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Technology creeps into the medical world, one app at a time


December 27, 2013
ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Diabetes? There's an app for that. Blood pressure monitoring? There's an app for that. Electrocardiograph? Yes, there's even an app for that.

With the increase of technology, the use of technology in medicine is increasing as well. Doctors around the country are embracing the technological world of applications, or apps for short, and using them for the greater good.

There are thousands of apps that smartphone users can download and use for their own benefit, whether good or bad.

Dr. Jacob Varghese of Kaiser Permanente is a local doctor for Family Medicine in Forsyth County who is cautious when recommending apps to patients.

"There are medical apps that I use that I wouldn't want a patient using, mainly because sometimes patients get a little bit of information and they can misconstrue it the wrong way," said Varghese. "There are apps like blood pressure apps and monitoring sugar, where they can monitor and keep track of things, which I like. There's fitness ones that I like where I can tell patients to use where they can enter their weight and keep track of things."

Varghese sticks to recommending general health apps just to make patients' lives easier, and tries to stray away from apps that tell patients how to live.

"There are apps like Epocrates where I'd worry if a patient used it, because they'd come back and say 'oh I read this online that it could mean this,'" said Varghese. "Then it goes down rabbit trails, which may not be applicable to them, but they don't realize that involves a different level."

Epocrates is mainly for doctors to use to figure out how much of a dosage to give patients, or choose which prescription would be best for them.

"There are apps that I use to help me with clinical diagnosis and medical information, pharmacology, those kinds of things that help make my diagnosis and assessment of patients easier," said Varghese. "It's nice to not have to worry about keeping everything straight when the tools can help us make better decisions."

Deciding which apps to recommend to patients takes Varghese a lot of time to decide.

"The ones I recommend are ones I've heard from other doctors or patients who've used it and I've seen it firsthand how it looks like," said Varghese. "I'm always weary to the apps that are out there. You have to vet it to some extent that it is a useful one."

Varghese said the apps are useful for helping patients remember to write down their blood pressure or sugar intake if they need to because they usually have their cellphone on them, but not a piece of paper.

"If they're on a medication reminder program, it beeps at the prescribed times for them to help them remember to take their medication," said Varghese. "That helps them comply with their regiment and makes their overall health better for them."

Making patients healthy is Varghese's main goal, and he said he can understand why apps are becoming so popular.

"My hope is down the road, technology will be even better and there'll be better products out there for patients to use," said Varghese. "Anything that a patient can improve taking medication and improve their health is a useful tool."

Non-technologically savvy patients may find it difficult, confusing or hard to use apps. Varghese said he works with his patients and can usually tell if apps will work if they say they don't use email.

"If we still have to use some of the 'older' methods, like writing down their blood pressure," said Varghese, "ultimately it's work with the patient that's most relevant for them."

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