Healthcare Technology Featured Article

December 13, 2012

Paging Dr. Siri: iPhone Means Big Changes in Medical Information Gathering

Siri, much like Barbie, has had a lot of different careers since its inception. It's been an advertising gold mine, a secretary, and occasionally, a comedian with both light and dark sides. But now, Siri-- the iPhone and even mobile devices as a whole--is playing a new role, one many didn't expect: doctor of first resort. A study of mobile behavior over the last two years staged by The Patients Guide shows that many are turning to mobile devices to get more information to bring to their doctor about their symptoms and potential courses of treatment.

The Patient's Guide study examined visitor behavior on 30 different websites, and compiled the resulting data using a pool of over 12 million visitors in the course of two years, evaluating the resulting data for trends and discovered some very interesting points. Those using their iPhones to get extra medical information before speaking to a doctor went up fully 94 percent from just 2011 to 2012 The iPhone also represented the device most frequently used to get that information, accounting for fully 41 percent of total mobile traffic in the medical vein, and it's been projected that, if trends remain the same, by 2014, the iPhone will actually be used more often than the desktop computer to find and access healthcare data.

Image via Shutterstock

The CEO and co-founder of The Patient's Guide, Jasson Gilmore, elaborated on the role of the iPhone and similar devices in receiving and using medical information: “Knowing that mobile activity has grown significantly over the past three years, we have paid close attention to the trends and patterns shaping the way consumers behave in this space. We have seen a sea change in the way consumers use mobile devices to research medical topics online. Physicians are now telling us it’s common to see a patient who’s reading questions from their iPhones. From that standpoint, I think it’s a good thing as patients become more empowered by mobile technology.”

Indeed, Gilmore's assessment makes perfect sense. As more mobile devices enter the field, users will use them for a wide array of reasons. Naturally, medical reasons would come into play at some point for many users, so seeing them turn to these devices is only rational. It's interesting that iPhones are in such a large proportion of medical-based uses, but it's still reasonable. More information helps physicians who can, in turn, evaluate the information brought to them and make better diagnoses and suggest better courses of treatment. It's entirely possible that patients may well bring courses of treatment that physicians themselves weren't aware of at the time, and that's only a help.

While Siri will probably never be a practical replacement for a doctor, a more informed patient is likely to be not only more of a help to a doctor, but also more efficiently handled overall. Greater efficiency means that doctors can see more patients in a day, and that should prove to reduce costs for everybody in the long run. The extent of the iPhone's role in such improved efficiencies may be debatable, but it's clear that it will at least prove to be of some help.

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