Over the past three decades, great strides have been taken to keep the doctor’s office up to date with advancing technology. Despite issues that are still looming in today’s primary care model, the doctor’s office of the future looks more promising than ever.

Like many other industries, primary care medicine has innovated to become smarter, more personal, and more efficient – with one of the newest changes involving adopting electronic medical records. With this innovative spirit of the medical field in mind, here are three major ways the traditional doctor’s office will change in the future.

The shift that has been seen nationwide is the drastic increase in retail stores offering health services. Though providing in-store healthcare is not a new concept, retail stores like CVS and Walgreens are have recently been taking great measures to increase healthcare services all across the country, offering vaccinations, walk in clinics, and comprehensive health screenings.[2] By the end of 2017, there will be a projected 2,800 retail clinics nationwide, which is a 47% increase from 2014.[2]

This influx of healthcare services across the country will not only effectively cut costs, but provide convenience for patients. According to the Washington State Office of Financial Management, Americans travel an average of 8.6 miles to the doctors office.[5] Compared with 76% of Americans that live within 5 miles of a Walgreens, the benefits from the trend seen among retail stores offering health services will surely be seen.[4]

Not only will there be an increase of primary care available, but the future doctor’s office will be able to see patients much more frequently than before. Companies today are testing variations of today’s primary care model in attempts to further reach out to patients and optimize around-the-clock care. One such company is known as Forward, a medical startup out of San Francisco.[1] Adrian Aoun, founder of Forward, describes his company as “a doctors office that looks and feels more like an Apple Store than a doctors office.”[1] He further states that the patient experience “gets better over time as it learns more and more about you, almost like everything else we are used to, like Google and Facebook.”[1]

For Auon’s company, patients pay a flat rate every month and are able to access the clinic an unlimited amount of time.[1] The Forward clinics are equipped with artificial intelligence that utilize machine learning to adjust care specifically for each patient. Although this idea is still in its preliminary stages, it will cut costs for those without insurance and could further personalize health care in a unique way.

While the steps mentioned previously are significant starts in reaching out to patients and cutting down long wait times, the most accessible form of primary care may require many years of innovation to adopt: A doctor’s office in everyone’s home. Although this concept may appear farfetched, baby steps have been taken from various innovators to make this dream more of a reality. At the University of Helsinki, researchers tested an advanced prescription dispensing device to manage the medications of elderly patients.[3] In the study, patients in one nursing home were given their medication in the form of a dispensing device that alerts the patients when it is time to take medicine.[3] The frequency at which the patients took their medication on time was measured and compared to the traditional method (standard pill bottles with no alarms)[3].

The results of the test were staggering.

When using the prescription dispensing device, all of the patients took medication on time every time during the study. 100% compliance.[3] In the standard method, 18% of patients missed doses two or more times a week.[3] This study shows the direction in which healthcare is moving; using technology to assist in constant care is the future of medicine. Although today these dreams may seem distant, automated medical assistance in homes is truly on the horizon – perhaps automated doctors in every home may happen faster than we think.

Although the healthcare model today has made great strides with the advancing technology, it is obviously not perfect. In the near future, we can see retail stores beginning to incorporate healthcare services as well as different healthcare models to decrease overall costs and increase availability to patients. It is possible that sometime in the far future, we may see automated medical care begin to emerge for household use. Although it may seem very far down the road, the rapid advancement of technology today may suggest that it may be sooner than it appears.

References 

[1] Buhr, S. (2017, January 17). Forward, a $149 per month medical startup, aims to be the Apple Store of doctor’s offices. Retrieved November 5, 2017, from https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/17/anappleaday/

[2] How In-Store Health Care Services Offer a Total Store Growth Opportunity for Retailers. (2016, December 8). Retrieved November 5, 2017, from http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2016/how-in-store-health-care-services-offer-a-total-store-growth-opportunity.html

[3] Rantanen, P., MD,PhD, Parkkari, T., RN, Leikola, S., PhD, Airaksinen, M., PhD, & Lyles, A., ScD, MPH. (2017). An In-home Advanced Robotic System to Manage Elderly Home-care Patients’ Medications: A Pilot Safety and Usability Study. ScienceDirect, 39(5). doi:10.1016/j.clinthera.2017.03.020

[4] Walgreens: Facts and FAQs. Retrieved from http://news.walgreens.com/fact-sheets/frequently-asked-questions.htm

[5] Yen, W. (2013, April). How Long and How Far Do Adults Travel and Will Adults Travel for Primary Care?. Retrieved November 5, 2017, from https://ofm.wa.gov/sites/default/files/public/legacy/researchbriefs/2013/brief070.pdf

 

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