Ever heard the expression “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” Well, pardon the comparison, but for America’s Baby Boomers, computer technology, social networking sites, Groupon and email are all the rage with today’s Internet savvy Boomer generation. As the health care industry is naturally progressing, it makes sense that the Internet is playing a large role in this evolution. When you combine the need for health care with a computer confident demographic, you now have set the perfect scene for online diagnosis and treatment all in one place.
Statically Baby Boomers are taking the Web by storm. There are currently more than 16 million seniors engaging in social sites including MySpace, Twitter and Facebook. Last year, the oldest known Twitter user 104-year-old Ivy Bean gained a huge following across the world and remained active with her tweets until her death in July. She serves as just one example of the collective change in the way older generations perceive technology.
Think about the last time you went to a doctor. You may have had a quick exam but the majority of the time you spent during the face-to-face visit was probably spent discussing medical history or perhaps certain symptoms. The diagnosis for many non-life threatening conditions, such as erectile dysfunction or hair loss therapy, is made largely through the patient’s discussion of symptoms. Imagine not having to leave your home to get the same level of healthcare? You cut down on gas costs, office visit fees and time spent in the waiting room. For many, especially those who may no longer be able to drive or have mobility limitations, this solution is ideal.
Currently developers are working on products that will allow doctor’s access to live information from the patient, including vitals like heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. Software which permits doctors and patients to “meet” via webcam is already being used today.
So why isn’t everyone ready to welcome this type of health care with open arms? Unfortunately, like nearly every industry, there are some companies who have compromised patient safety simply to turn a profit. Perhaps the most commonly recognized example of this is the online Viagra market. Unsolicited email after email seems to fill the average email junk folder and everywhere we look there are offers for “enhancing” this or “lengthening” that.
In men 65 years old and older, 15-25% experience erectile dysfunction and many will go to great lengths to remedy the condition. The medical world has acknowledged the fact that throughout a man’s life, he may easily be one of the 75% of men who experience ED at some point in their lives.
So here’s where online diagnosis factors in. Websites who offer prescription medication without an online medical assessment are illegally abusing the system of online health care. Those who also offer “generics,” soft tabs and quick dissolve versions of Viagra are dangerous non-FDA approved counterfeits.
But imagine if the Web was free of these sinister “rogue” pharmacies? If you were experiencing a condition that didn’t require a psychical hands-on exam wouldn’t you be more comfortable seeking medical help from the comfort of your own home? What if your hair was beginning to thin? A doctor would not need to examine your scalp to see that you are experiencing male pattern hair loss. These are just two of the conditions that the Baby Boomer generation can greatly benefit from receiving an online diagnosis. In addition, those vowing to quit smoking in the New Year may also benefit from the availability of online medical consultations to receive the prescription medications needed to help make the process of quitting an easier one.
In the next few years does it seem probable that all face-to-face doctors’ visits will be deemed unnecessary? Of course not, but the Baby Boomer population may be the first generation to experience the benefits of online diagnosis as technology continues to evolve.
Emily Murray is a journalism school graduate and the communications specialist for KwikMed.com, which utilizes physicians licensed to prescribe online to safely bring online diagnosis and prescribing to patients across the country.