With all the apps/websites out there to make one healthy one would wonder if we even need to bother about Obamacare, medicare or affordable health act. Over the years I have been asked to review various apps which monitor weight, calorie intake, calories burnt. Some apps are designed to screen the symptoms of patients and pull up relevant information from various websites. These are very helpful. These apps are based on algorithms designed to mimic human thinking.Just like the book on Prelex eye surgery. An often asked question is can they replace the doctors ?
Let me begin with a simple example. Exams test students. It was proposed that in open book exams students would do better. That was not true. After the students open the book they can look at facts but interpretation is still lacking. An MD spends around 8 years in gaining knowledge learning to identify signs and classifying them based on severity. He also learns to sift the data to come up with a differential diagnosis. Therefore he has learnt the ability to think about many conditions at the same time.
Can social media replace real friends and interactions? Same way patient doctor interaction is special. It has been shown to have a placebo effect. This added value a a “human” health-care professional provides is the reason why some doctors practices are bursting with patients. This factor has also to be taken in account when testing out a new drug. A doctor can also asses your psychological state which no computer can do.
There are some harmful effects on relying only on these apps. What if the app develops a bug. We have recently seen that apple maps has landed us in sticky situations. Can we play around with our life? Even when they work well they can give a false sense of hope. This can lead a potentially dangerous condition to become life threatening. Sometimes trivial things may get misdiagnosed (as a layman is interpreting) and create fear and emotional distress.
May be one day life will mimic art and we will have holographic doctors like in star trek. Til than peace.