Bringing Medical Tech To The Streets

Trial sees health checks in local barbers.

Non-traditional medicine is making waves for upending an unnecessarily expensive industry, one that can feel like a case of  “the treatment is worse than the disease”. High costs of treatment and insurmountable prescription costs, coupled with hours of missed time off of work for something even as minor as the common cold, speak to a system that is broken beyond repair.

Change is coming, though, and while some might raise an eyebrow or two at the effectiveness and the risks, it’s largely proving to be beneficial. One advancement, the legality on a state by state basis of allowing doctors to charge a “subscription rate” for primary care, means doctors are able to provide quality care while patients pay far less than they would for health insurance coverage.

Medical tech hits the street in LA

The way we seek medical advice is rapidly changing.

Dr on demand

Another new innovation is the “doctor on demand” apps that allow patients to be seen via VoIP or other connectivity-based apps. While the patient still pays a traditional, minimal co-pay cost (typically in the neighborhood of $30-$40US) whether they have health coverage or not, the waiting period is spent at home rather than the petri dish of a doctor’s waiting room. Also, some reports have shown that patients are more likely to seek medical help when their symptoms are still manageable instead of waiting until they cannot go without professional care.

But one of the most promising potential medical innovations is less a new piece of technology and more a new way of viewing patient monitoring, and it comes from a study conducted in downtown Los Angeles. The goal of the project was to determine whether or not patients could reach a lower, healthier blood pressure level through better awareness and encouragement from professionals in places they were already frequenting: barbershops.

Hair cut and health check

The study focused on African-American men and put medical screening equipment in their local barbershops. One group of the study’s participants also saw a pharmacist regularly, sometimes even in the barbershop, who was able to adjust their blood pressure medication as needed. The screening equipment, while technical, wasn’t so intrusive that patients–or rather, barbershop customers–had any qualms about having their readings checked by the trained barber.

Big gains

The results of the study, published this month, saw significant improvement in both the group that saw the pharmacist routinely and the group that only monitored their blood pressure readings during visits to the barbershop. The group that met with a pharmacist on occasion did see an overall higher level of improvement over the group that only stayed on top of their blood pressure levels.

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