Calling Dr. Digital!

According to some medical technology experts, 2019 may be a big year for digital medicine. In fact, the trend shows that various medically-related smartphone apps are becoming commonplace. For example, an application such as AppDoc, developed at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. With AppDoc, anyone can receive an assessment of a skin problem from a German skin specialist -- anonymously, quickly and inexpensively (it costs 35€ to send images online or via smartphone). AppDoc developers claim that three photos are enough to have doctors digitally check and diagnose suspicious-looking skin spots. AppDoc has not yet been given the “green light” since dermatologists are still reviewing and testing out the reliability of diagnosing using the app. But the initial findings are promising.

Other apps in development are taking advantage of the speed and accuracy of digital imaging: one app claims to be able to recognize hereditary diseases of the shape of the face; another smartphone app says it can identify an opiate overdose by detecting reduced breathing; and right here in Hamburg, a lawyer founded a start-up, which allows patients to officially call in sick at work via WhatsApp. Another game-changing initiative in Germany may revamp the way patients and doctors move through the diagnosis and treatment process. The Rhön hospital group plans to work together with the Switzerland-based Medgate to provide patients with general and/or urgent care advice and treatment for both urgent via telephone, internet or video conference. The partnership hopes to help get people in rural areas more access to medical care.

Additionally, there are more and more reliable smart technology devices that every patient can carry around or have easy access to. Imagine being able to: measure the intraocular pressure with your own smartphone on the couch? or use a Heartguide smartwatch to measure blood pressure at any time? or listen to your own heart along with the software to interpret it and tell you if your aortic valve is functioning properly? or take a saliva sample and get the genome sequenced? Soon it will be routine for physicians to give consultations remotely in Germany. In fact, the local medical community generally supports this idea with a large part of the regional medical associations already moving in this direction. Stay tuned, because many of these features are getting approval for use in Germany.

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