Getting in touch with young patients as easy as A-P-P

When you’re a youngster, you feel invincible.

Disease, disability, any sort of bodily duress seems so far removed, it hardly warrants a discussion — unless there’s a participation grade to be had. And even then, all you and your impervious bod have to do is show up, sit down and potentially engage. If one happens to have a chronic condition, such as asthma, it still feels like small fries compared to exams, occupational duties, dating, etc. (I speak from experience.)

In essence, it’s nothing that can’t be handled later.

What’s more, these feelings of immortality account for only a fraction of why young adults aren’t drinking the proactive personal care cocktail just yet — health insurance and the understanding of it also plays a huge role. Not only is the 18-25 year-old age bracket representative of one of the most underinsured demographics in the country, it’s a subset that isn’t extensively educated regarding said coverage or the concept of insurance in general. Although Accountable Care Act stipulations are sure to change some of these realities to a certain extent, physicians have to deal with delivering quality care to all of their patients now, even those 18-25 years of age, especially if they have a chronic condition or illness.

Which brings us to another reason younger generations are dragging their feet when it comes to taking a personal interest in healthcare — as an industry, medicine is lollygagging on endorsing hip new methods toward continuous care, i.e. technology. Fortunately, this aspect can be changed on the individual provider level, and immediately.

How do you get in touch and keep patients my age interested in acknowledging our health on a regular basis? Through our phones, our gadgets.

Smartphones, laptops, computers, interactive music players, tablets — all these tools are quickly becoming an extension of the human experience. Thus, rather than condemning these gizmos for what they may or may not be doing to the traditional social structure, embrace the new limbs to help out the bodies they're attached to.

For example, a Harvard Medical School study recently discovered that after age 18, asthma care deteriorates. While the researchers focused on the hope ACA offers to insuring that age group and thus helping to ameliorate some of the issue’s swelling, there are app suggestions physicians and emergency clinicians can give their applicable patients right now to increase self-care and awareness before ACA kicks in fully in 2014.

Some helpful apps include Asthma Sense (for patients with iPhones, iPods and iTunes accounts) and AsthmaCheck (for patients with Androids or with Google accounts), as well as Asthmapolis, Asthma Journal, AsthmaMD, GlaxoSmithKline’s MyAsthma, AsthmaSense and AirSonea, both from iSonea, T-Haler, CitiSense, WeatherMD, iBiomed, Healthanywhere and SMS-based Asthma Signals. Google Play boasts an additional 200-plus other apps to choose from to help patients who have respiratory issues. The same can be app-lied to other conditions too, like diabetes.

Merely encouraging younger patients to set up calendar alerts on their phones, computers or email accounts to note their progress with a given condition digitally can help enhance self-awareness in a way that is very much catered to the young, modern individual. 

Achilles needed to be reminded of his mortality via divine intervention — now we have apps for that. Let’s use them.