Have You Ever Prescribed Technology?


Most patients who come to see their docs expect that they will suggest or prescribe some medical intervention at the end of the encounter. This doesn’t necessarly mean that you hand out a prescription for a drug, but the patient wants you to give her answers to her questions, instructions on how to behave, on what’s right and what’s wrong. Although we know that compliance of patients is often miserable, they still won’t feel happy leaving your office with a simple goodbye and nothing else.

Drugs are probably the most prescribed health intervention. That’s good and bad at the same time. The patient feels being taken care of and is satisfied. On the other hand she doesn’t see a need to actively do anything aside from taking the drug. That’s it. You take the drug and everything will be fine.

We know it from our own experience and countless studies have supported this notion, our archetypical patient, the 50-year old white male, with a history of type-2 diabetes, overweight, nicotine and alcohol abuse won’t easily change his lifestyle to the better if you try to introduce him to “lifestyle modification”. So, mindful of this fact you pull out your pen and think of a suitable drug for this patient. Medical drug prescription are the result of most modern doctor encounters.

Now with IT and healthcare merging into an entity called e-health, startups and big companies alike, develop new technological products or devices that aim to improve a patients health. We now have complimentary health interventions we can offer our patients. We, the digital physicians and interested e-health individuals, read about these things all the time. We blog about them, write raving rants, suggest it to fellow physicians and buy it for ourselves.

But how come I have the feeling that

  1. Buying the Withings scale
  2. Suggesting to log onto sites like Patientslikeme
  3. Using iPhone apps to track your blood glucose level or
  4. Joining online communities that make use of game mechanics to help you losing weight

are NOT in a physician’s mind when giving advice to a patient? I admit, that the larger portion of your typical patient won’t have an iPhone (e.g., the elderly) but you have to start somewhere, right? Why not help younger patients by suggesting to use these services and devices? It might help the patient to deal with their disease and it might help you as a physician to better track their biometric variables.

Do you have any IT products that you used successfully in your daily clinical practice? If so, we would be happy to read about your use-case in the comments section!


  1. i’ve suggested getting an ipod touch or iphone to patients before. i tell them about medical apps that can track blood pressure, blood sugars, and weight loss! it’s a great resource. and if they dont have an iphone or ipod touch, i tell them about web-based medical apps that could help.

  2. Thank you for understanding that mobile health does not only mean apple. Simple web apps are important, especially for patients that can’t afford a $100/mo iPhone data plan.

  3. Interesting, and  yes, I’ve not only prescribed technology but way back when was involved in actually putting in 8×8 TV set top boxes to experiment with home telemedicine.  Someone just asked me today for a rapid short list of technologies that have affected my practice so in jotting them down in Evernote I decided to also publish them in my blog before my flight leaves Washington DC on the way home.  http://vorand1125.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/a-short-list-of-technologies-changing-my-practice/


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