Certain prescription drugs may soon be available to consumers through digital kiosks, rather than a doctor’s diagnosis, underscoring the methods technology is transforming healthcare.
The Food and Drug Administration is mulling digitally-driven patient kiosks where people can self-diagnose for specific conditions through an algorithm-based survey. The process would drop the prescription requirement for certain treatments and common ailments.
Self-diagnosis would let users get medical care in a more convenient way. The kiosk concept under FDA consideration indicates the regulatory agency is taking a serious step towards using digital technology to deliver healthcare, moving away from relying on third-party app developers.
With kiosks, the FDA is considering eliminating the need for prescriptions for conditions like asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and migraines, and the kiosks could also be used for refills after an initial diagnosis. Part of the FDA’s process includes holding two public hearings in Washington, D.C., to get feedback from the medical community and public at large.
“FDA is aware that industry is developing new technologies that consumers could use to self-screen for a particular disease or condition and determine whether a particular medication is appropriate for them,” says the public hearing notice in the Federal Register. “For example, kiosks or other technological aids in pharmacies or on the Internet could lead consumers through an algorithm for a particular drug product.”
Should a digital diagnosis kiosk find its way into neighborhood drug stores, primary care physicians will have more time to focus on patients with severe conditions and lessen their patient load, one way that digital kiosks could relieve an overburdened system.
But patients who are diagnosing themselves could easily misinterpret symptoms and receive an improper medication, or end up taking a medication that conflicts with another. Without a physician to spell out the details, they could misinterpret what they’re taking.
But if the algorithm for self-diagnosis is clear, and pharmacists are on-hand to help walk patients through the process as the FDA suggests in its preliminary planning, the system is expected to streamline the current process and help patients avoid wait times.
The idea of computer technology aiding the medical profession is slowly developing, with smartphone and tablet apps to help doctors and patients alike. Some diagnostic tools rely on a mobile touch screen through finger strokes, or even saliva.
Other apps and devices work to pinpoint other conditions, from one that helps doctors diagnose stroke symptoms, to a futuristic proposed “smart pill”, which would embed a chip in medication for instant diagnostic results sent to a smart phone.
As the FDA hashes out its plans to eliminate the need for prescriptions, relying on modern technology is one way to streamline a process to help save medical professionals valuable resources in an overburdened system. But to make sure patient care remains a top priority, the FDA and industry professionals are sure to carefully determine how to make the process work without compromising a potentially life-changing diagnosis.