Updated: Aug 12, 2018
I've taught technology for a long, long, time. No one is a stronger advocate for the benefits of using it than myself. I've seen struggling students achieve success when they never had before thanks to technology. It is the great equalizer when there is equal access. But I saw something in the news that got me thinking about how we think we are so hip and smart, yet we do things that in the light of day rather than the glow of a digital screen would make no sense.
Who is really in charge when we hand over our personal information to a machine and worse yet, people we have never met? I use an example with my students. I ask them if someone they didn't know walked up to them on the street would they give them personal information? They, of course, say no. I then ask them why they share information freely on the Internet? They have no answer, but that simple moment does lead some of them to reflect.
Look at this article: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/08/08/cvs-minuteclinic-telemedicine-telehealth/928004002/
CVS will be offering a "digital doctor" service for $59 per year. Sounds great. With insurance companies covering less and less to recoup their losses from the debacle of Obamacare, health coverage is becoming almost unaffordable for many people. And for those who can afford it, we pay considerably more for services that were once covered and now are not.
For example, there is the story I heard from a health care provider the other day of a patient, a woman with several children whose deductible is $20,000. That's right. It's not a typo. She explained to the doctor that while she and her children needed the medical services, she simply didn't know how she was going to pay for it. She finally came to the difficult decision to drop her coverage and just pay the cost of the treatment... and the penalty for not having coverage.
So, for people like her, being able to use an app to get a diagnosis, skipping the co-pay and expenses that will not be covered, this is irresistible. But is it smart? And is it safe?
Michael Phelps does commercials for TalkSpace, an app that allows you to speak to a counselor to get digital therapy. But what guarantees does the customer get about the quality of the advice and the security of their personal information?
Do the conversations get recorded? Should they be in order to protect both the professional and the patient?
What if the advice given turns out badly? Is there any culpability on the part of the company or is it a case of you get what you pay for?
No doubt, being able to speak to a professional at any time of day or night is comforting. Most doctors don't have weekend hours and their weekday appointments end before many people even get home from work. Walk-in clinics hours are no better. I once became ill on an early Saturday evening. I went from one urgent care location to another. I couldn't find one that was open. My only option was to spend hours waiting in a local hospital emergency room.
So it's a nice idea, but where is the quality control? Online therapy and tele-medicine is popping up everywhere.
Call me crazy, but I find it a little disconcerting to think that my health and well being is being decided by a download from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
According to an article on Wired, a study was done and discovered that diagnoses given were correct 38% of the time and advice given was correct approximately two-thirds of the time. (https://www.wired.co.uk/article/health-apps-test-ada-yourmd-babylon-accuracy)
Would you accept those numbers from your actual doctor?
So why are we becoming more and more comfortable with the idea that if it's coming from a device, it is probably okay?
Is it that we're so busy we don't have time to make traditional appointments? How much time will it cost you if the advice is wrong and a simple condition becomes serious because it was not treated correctly or a serious illness goes untreated and becomes a major health problem?
In a pinch, I admit, I would probably try it if the situation was bad enough and I needed immediate help. When you're not feeling well, you'll take any advice you can get. But we need to stop and think. Do I have faith in the person I'm trusting with my life? Did I take the time to check their credentials? Did I check reviews of the app I'm using?
We would take time to hire a mechanic for our beloved cars. Before you make that call, please do your homework to avoid being sent down the wrong road.