THE BLOG
01/28/2015 10:19 am ET Updated May 07, 2015

Your Home Is Your DIY Medical Home

You know that drawer in your bathroom that's got a first aid kit, some over-the-counter medications, and Band-Aids? That's so 1960s, when you might have met up with Dr. Ben Casey or Dr. Kildare in the hospital, or perhaps Marcus Welby might have made a face-to-face house call.

Today, your home, and truly wherever you 'are,' is your medical home, thanks to the smartphone as your wellness channel, the Internet as your wellness platform, and the Internet of Things connecting your stuff -- which includes your car as a personal mobile health vehicle.

The Internet is already a health information platform for most people, who seek medical information as a standard M.O. when a symptom hits. With the growth of high-deductible health plans, health plan members must spend their "own money" on health care until the deductible is met. This new reality is morphing people into health consumers, who seek pricing and quality information for health services and products -- like doctors' appointments, prescription drugs, and arthroscopies for sports-injured knees. The Employee Benefits Research Institute's latest consumer engagement survey found that more people with high-deductible health plans behave more like health-shoppers.

More people are using mobile phones and tablets to seek this information, looking for helpful apps to help manage their personal health care workflows. Consider the moment you receive a new prescription: that moment-of-truth drives you to search drug information, click into an app like GoodRx, and see the availability of a generic substitute, then find the best price for that drug in your neighborhood and get a map that guides your drive to pick it up. Another scenario finds you in a new town without a relationship with a doctor, so you tap into ZocDoc or PokitDok to find a doctor based on criteria you choose, make an appointment, strike a price and pay for it within one app.

Apps can enable you to skip the face-to-face doctor visit and go virtual. Think: Skype enabling your doctor's appointment. More health plans are covering virtual health visits, and last year, Medicare created a code to enable doctors to charge for virtual visits -- which expands telehealth to older patients. American Well's mobile app AmWell enables you to buy a virtual visit with a board-certified doctor. And, the big chain pharmacies are also adding telehealth to their offerings beyond prescriptions in the back of the store: MDLIVE, a telehealth company, partners with Walgreens, linking to the pharmacy's mobile app. Imagine: on the same app, you can see a doctor, refill a prescription, and order photo reprints.

Enabling consumers to access virtual visits, some pioneering employers who cover health insurance on the job are now looking to telehealth to provide more convenient care at a lower cost -- for both company and consumer. JetBlue has been an early adopter providing telehealth to very mobile employees, and saving the company money by driving health care to workers, wherever they are.

Mobile health apps are the current mode of DIY health, but look to the Internet of Things (IoT) to expand the DIY medical home concept. IoT emerged as a major theme at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month. Internet-connected devices in our homes will track our lives, from what's in the fridge and the washer's energy use to pre-heating our grills and starting up our crockpots. For health, IoT will be pervasive and helpful: connected pill bottles, medication reminders, nutrition support, hidden weight scales under the floor where you brush your teeth, and a car's sensors that perceive poor air quality that prompts windows to close and air conditioners to start up, preventing your asthma flare-up: health (care) will be where we live, work, play... and drive.

In the post-recession economy, consumers are looking to patronize companies who provide value, inspire creativity and DIY, conserve resources, and keep them healthy. The DIY medical home is part of this new consumer workflow.