A private Allergy –ENT medical clinic in Quebec - 14 May 2015
Increasingly our patients prefer to access the web via their smart phone… 24/7! For them, the www is not a window on the world but rather a part of their world that lives in their pocket. For an allergy specialist, this represents a challenging change to the way I can meet my patients’ expectations. In allergy, a 2.0 medicine approach also represents a tremendous opportunity to bring forth a fascinating new paradigm of care destined to impact the allergy epidemic.
Helping the 2.0 allergy patient, today… now!
The “2.0 patient” is nothing if not immediate. Sneezing? Google it, access local pollen counts and pollution reports in seconds. Then find an app to do it on an ongoing basis. Whether for respiratory or food allergies, websites, blogs and better yet, videos from experts appear from simple key words. Forums let allergy sufferers voice concerns or opinions and draw possible answers and support.
For many allergists, the professional websites is more or less the equivalent of a “Yellow pages” ad. Increasingly, prospective patients will expect this to include clinical information on various allergic conditions. Pertinent FAQ’s and timely blog posts can optimize referencing and ultimately help Google make the allergy specialist’s answers more accessible. But too often the reality remains that, in order to find these, the allergic person must thread through a maze of antihistamine ads, discussion groups or blogs of variable repute and sometimes conflicting scientific communications.
The wild wild west… of the world wide web.
For allergy specifically and medicine in general, the web is like the Far West. With no standard or axis to grade search mentions on a scale going from opinions or fads to expertise (not to mention of corporate nepotism…), the 2.0 allergy patients are left to adjudicate this in the context of personal beliefs often born from hearsay.
Essentially, the question is this: Where can we, as allergy specialists, provide this growing body of patients with the proper answers to their questions? And how can we propose these answers so that they can find the allergic patients asking them?
Evidence-based medical information, in real time!
For physicians and patients alike, the web brings immediacy. It greatly facilitates our ability to stay current. In a scientific world where evidence-based data challenges dogma daily, the flow of information is growing exponentially. It can be intimidating… yet we must manage it in real time.
The search for evidence-based data will benefit from patients’ increasing use of wearable devices. More importantly, apps may that objectively track the daily symptoms (and their severity) of a single patient or a cohort of them over ever increasing time periods will help us “get the big picture”.
Patients are becoming more sophisticated. They have done their search and have pointed questions. They want to see what the doctor sees (the color of the ear drum or the “polyps” in the nose) rather than be told about it. They want to be able to share objective findings and discuss options with family or other physicians.
Essentially, the “health” consumer will come to expect from allergists what the retail industry now offers via the web. We better set-up for click-based access to appointments and specialized web-based “pre-consultations” to provide triage and more pertinent medical visits! Patients will want to forward pictures of their “reactions” and lists of concerns ahead of the visit. They will insist on a digital / shareable corroboration of precise diagnosis, allergies and recommended treatment.
A medical consultation cannot be other than a meaningful human encounter. It remains the best opportunity to address the fears of allergic patients and orient them towards the best solutions. More and more however, this encounter will need to be supported by a dematerialized logistic that we have the privilege at this point to design.
PS: One must congratulate the French www.myallergo.fr , essentially a Facebook-type meeting center for allergists. This impressive webtool promises to facilitate educational and research efforts and supports professional conviviality. Kudos!