The Internet can bring everything to your fingertips—including the local doctor's office. New technology is helping patients get quicker responses from primary care physicians and pediatricians and empowering them to feel more in control of their health, says Bradley Crotty, M.D., a medical researcher at Harvard University. Give these three digital tools a try.
- Smartphone Apps
Monitoring and tracking your vitals, like blood pressure and blood sugar levels, can help you determine if your Rxs are working or reveal a potential health problem, says Dr. Crotty. We like Glucose Buddy (iTunes and GooglePlay, free), for diabetics who want to track their carbs and medications, and Sleep Cycle (iTunes, $2), which analyzes your sleep patterns and determines the best time to wake you up. Before you hit "download," check the online reviews and run the app past your physician.
- Personal Health Records (PHRs)
Some doctors have electronic health records that permit their patients to view medical files online, but you can also opt for a DIY version, like Microsoft HealthVault. A free PHR, it lets you record medications, lab results, immunization histories and X-rays on your computer. If you want to share the data with a physician, you may have to print it out, but the PHR can connect you with apps that make it easier to order prescription refills and set health goals.
- Smartphone Apps
Videoconferencing with Your Doctor
It may be possible to save time—and a trip to the physician's office—by discussing a minor illness, such as a sinus infection, with your M.D. via a videoconference, says Dr. Crotty. (One note: Sometimes an in-person visit is warranted, he says.) Talk to your doctor about whether this is an option and if the primary care practice has a program that complies with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). If not, your conversation isn't privacy-protected.
Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.