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Are Doctors Ready for Self-Service Medicine?

Article

Customers are expected to do more for themselves, whether it's in the grocery line, the gas station, the airline check-in counter, or of course, on online commerce sites. In the future, patients will be doing the same thing.

Customers are expected to do more for themselves, whether it's in the grocery line, the gas station, the airline check-in counter, or of course, on online commerce sites. In the future, patients will be doing the same thing.

There is a difference between Do-It-Yourself medicine and self-service medicine. DIY medicine means diagnosing and, in some instances, treating your own illness. Self-service medicine means doing more yourself to buy or access medical services either before or after the interaction with a doctor or other health professional.

DIY medicine comes with its own problems and there are many reasons why self-service medicine might not get much traction. However, consider:

1. Patients making online appointments and doing insurance verification and benefits eligibility, like out-of-network providers.

2. Completing all pre-visit history and registration information online.

3. Using patient-directed decision support systems to derive a working diagnosis at the time of the visit along with your chief complaint.

4. Refilling prescriptions at the touch of a button.

5. Sharing your health data with relatives or other providers.

6. Signing up for educational and informational platforms specific to your diagnosis.

7. Getting the results of your lab tests and learning how to interpret them.

8. Getting instructions on basic first aid or CPR.

9. Monitoring at-home therapies like occupational or physical therapy.

10. Self-monitoring of remote sensing, wearable or other tele-generated data.

Increasingly, patients will be asked to do more and more of the heavy lifting and it won't be just part of their orthopedic rehab. Self-service is not for every industry. The key will be whether doctors and hospitals do it to benefit themselves or whether they are doing it to benefit and make things easier for patients. Shortening the waiting line can good for the bottom line, but it needs to be done right.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
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