Just think about it—at this very moment, clinicians and their patients have more access to health information, technology and tools than ever before. These resources help to make us healthier, happier and more productive. However, it also makes it increasingly difficult to navigate through all of the available options to determine which healthcare trends are truly beneficial and will stand the test of time (and evidence) and which are just the latest fad, pushed by modern-day snake oil salesmen looking to cash in on the public’s desire for optimum health as quickly and as easily as possible.
Healthcare Trends To Know About
Today, we’ll look at a few of the most popular modern trends in healthcare, so you can see how they work (and where they fall short) and use this knowledge to make recommendations to your patients.
Weight Loss Apps
Mobile applications for weight loss (such as Lose It! And MyFitnessPal) are extremely popular right now, with millions of downloads and claims of tens of millions of pounds lost. But do they really work?
According to a report by CBS News, the answer is…maybe.
In initial studies, there has not been enough direct evidence to support the idea that mobile weight loss apps work any better than other methods that a person motivated to lose weight might use (i.e. portion control, calorie counting, etc.). However, the convenience of a mobile weight loss app, combined with instant feedback on the actual number of calories they’re consuming and burning, may help patients stay more motivated and committed to their weight loss program than other methods. Not surprising, the study found that people who regularly used the weight loss application lost more weight than those who didn’t. So do weight loss apps work? Sure—if you work with them.
All you have to do is look at the wrists of your co-workers or the person sitting next to you on the subway to realize that wearable fitness devices are extremely popular right now. Fitbit alone has 19 million registered users and nearly 10 million active users, and the number is expected to grow next year.
But do these devices actually help you to get healthy and stay healthy? The answer, much like mobile weight loss apps, is that they do if used regularly.
Recent studies on wearable devices have shown that the most important factor in their success is choosing the device with the features that most closely meet the personal needs and preferences of the user. And while it may be tempting to get the fanciest wearable with the greatest number of bells and whistles, the data available suggests a different approach: users have found the greatest success with wearables that have fewer but more effective tools and features that complement their preferred activities (i.e. waterproof screens for swimmers, GPS for outdoor distance runners, etc.) This makes a lot of sense, as it helps the user to focus on their goal and not get intimidated by a plethora of features and an abundance of health data that might not be particular useful to them in achieving their short or long term health goals.
More insurers are covering telemedicine services in 2016 (it’s mandatory in a majority of states), and the convenience of having 24/7 access to a doctor and getting a diagnosis at a fraction of the cost of an office visit without leaving your house is appealing to, well, pretty much everybody. For that reason, telemedicine is expected to grow around 40 percent per year over the next five years, with the potential for as many as 300 million “virtual visits” a year in the near future.
But does telemedicine work? The answer, much like with an office visit, is that your treatment will only be as good as the clinician providing the services. Patients should make sure that they thoroughly research the telemedicine company they’re using, including how they credential their providers and how reputable and established the company is. Many primary care physicians who previously offered only in-person treatment are also embracing telemedicine, and going with a provider that you know and trust is usually the best option.
What’s the best way to know whether a health trend works or not? Do your research. If it sounds like an easy fix or too good to be true, it most likely is. With rapid improvements in mobile technology, there will be a lot of room for growth and savings with healthcare offerings in the future, but time will tell which innovations are just a flash in the pan and which will become best practices in the health systems of tomorrow.