Aging Parents: Smartphones’ Photos in Senior Healthcare

Smartphones’ photos in senior healthcare

NYC 86th St. Subway ad 2016 (above). Close up of text under “The doctor will see you now” (below).


Upon exiting the subway last week, this ad greeted me. We are to assume, I believe, that unknown medical diagnosticians, presumably MD’s, are at the ready to diagnose unknown people’s health issues after receiving photos taken by–and emailed from–a mobile device.

Over three years ago, my dermatologist’s assistant asked if I had an iPhone and could take a picture of something on my face, email it and perhaps save an office visit—and time (and money).

What an unexpected response to my calling to make an appointment to have her look at a little spot. It made so much sense. Indeed I had the “nothing-to-worry-about” reply from her office within the hour. How efficient–and reassuring–is that!

I’d forgotten that experience until I got off the subway and saw the above ad a few days ago. Coincidently yesterday, after calling the doctor’s answering service due to a health issue in my family, our doctor was caring enough to phone back asking: “Can you email a picture?” Of course we could. Almost immediate feedback–both ways–with resulting peace of mind at our end.

An emailed photo to a doctor would seem to be helpful to everyone in certain circumstances. Yet I’m wondering how often doctors instruct their staff to offer the option? Or whether they’ve thought of it? Are there times when we need to ask our doctors if smartphone-emailed photos are helpful in certain instances? (See Related below for some “instances.”)

While it may be difficult to envision people wanting to receive a diagnosis at a distance by an unknown doctor, the ad in the subway merits attention to this helpful possibility: When it comes to our parents’ doctors–or our own, it makes sense to ask their feelings about receiving smartphone photos under certain circumstances.

We know how much effort goes into helping older parents and the elders we care about. Doesn’t it make sense to use all available technology to help ourselves save time and energy, while helping our parents get advice without needing to visit their doctor’s office?
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Related: Aging Parents–visible wounds, cuts, bruises–connecting quickly with doctors; a different use for cell phones

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.

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