Shop Well

Recent medical legislation and technologies have empowered everyday consumers to take more control of their health care. A new generation of accessible, engaging products are helping them make educated choices.

Last Updated April 12, 2011

Shop Well Round-up: 5/7/10 to 4/4/11

The future of medical care is coming, and it looks a lot like shopping. Eleven months of SHOP WELL has shown dozens of examples of consumer intelligence working its way into health and wellness, with remarkable and sometimes encouraging results. 
Some memorable examples:

Retail Clinics Fill Gap - CVS, Walgreens and Wal-Mart may soon be the clinics of choice for a broad segment of the US, offering quick and efficient basic medical care right in the store for a fraction of the cost of a traditional doctor's office.

Consumer Reports Magazine Rates Surgical Groups - To the long list of consumer products and services reviewed by Consumer Reports, you can add heart surgeons. A rating from one to three stars lets patients shop around for the best chest cutter.

Your Mobile Phone is Moonlighting as an STD Clinic - A tiny sensor chip costing less than two US dollars will soon let users test themselves for STIs quickly and anonymously. The chip, expected to retail in English grocery stores and nightclubs, lets you take a blood or urine sample, then communicates the data via cellphone to an analysis facility, returning an accurate result in minutes.

Social Media and Medicine? Not Just Yet.

In theory it sounds great: tweet your doctor, or send her a Facebook message. Forget the waiting rooms and the paperwork; you never have to leave your keyboard to find out what ails you. However, according to a Capstrat national survey, Americans aren't quite ready to rely on social media when it comes to medicine, with only 11% giving the affirmative. In an internet enabled world, why do some services give us pause when it comes to social media integration?

Read the detailed numbers at Healthcare IT News.
Tweets from the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Stress Test Your DNA

UC San Francisco researcher Elizabeth Blackburn has co-founded a company that seeks to sell stress testing kits. The twist? They utilize recent advances in DNA analysis to look for stress-related damage on the genetic level. A bit more involved than a mood ring, but way more credible.

Read the details at Smart Planet.
DNA test image via Flickr user  Like_the_Grand_Canyon.

An Emergency Room Built Especially for You

As baby boomers age, entire industries are shifting around them, and hospitals are no different. Across the country, medical facilities are revamping emergency rooms specifically to accommodate the elderly, adding hand rails, larger clocks, softer lighting, and other amenities friendly to the aged. While there's nothing sinister about addressing the needs of a large population of patients, the idea of the "customized ER" holds some strange potential. Coming soon: emergency rooms for women? for sports enthusiasts? for the wealthy?

Read the New York Times' analysis and see what you think.
Image via Flickr user Libertinus.

Socially Healthy Shopping – Buy One, Help One

The essential exchange between parties that defines commerce contributes to the social aspect of shopping, and recently this exchange has been expanding to include third parties as potential beneficiaries. As health and wellness shoppers, we have learned to buy to maximize the benefit to ourselves, but new technologies and trends connect people and drive us to shop well not only for ourselves but also for others. The trend toward Shop Well considers evolves to integrate social responsibility, transparency and connectivity with others as it becomes more social. How will privacy, preference and price be factored into this evolution?

Signals of this socially health shopping come in the form of new Unicef-supported apps and tagging systems that benefit children in need. Some aim to educate shoppers during their routine purchases of children's needs for the same routine supplies like milk, water and medicines. Other concepts collapse purchasing with the promotion of a cause through more public symbols and gestures like jewelry that connects to a cause. 

How else can shopping for personal health more easily benefit public health?

Read more about these and other concepts in PSFK's Future of Mobile Tagging.

Your New Hip Will Look Like This

Further expanding the role of the iPad in hospital settings, medical technology company Stryker releases an app specifically designed to help orthopedic surgeons explain procedures to patients. The free app includes options for Total Hip, Total Knee and Total Shoulder replacement.

Get a preview on the Stryker website, or go straight to the app store.

NY Times Takes on Medical Websites

After years of recognition as the web's most prominent source of medical information, has come under scrutiny by the New York Times Magazine for pandering to advertiser interests and preying on user fears. The "hypochondriac time suck" is compared to more staid, non ad-driven sites like the Mayo Clinic's Symptom Checker, raising the concern that even democratic, patient-empowering information is being influenced by Big Pharma.

Read the article, then compare WebMD and Symptom Checker for yourself.

"Breakthroughs to Cures" Challenges Gamers to Tackle MS

On October 7-8 and November 9-10, thinkers and gamers will contribute to the research of the Myelin Repair Foundation to advance treatments and cures for multiple sclerosis through an idea-generating game. With an obvious link to Game Wise, the concept also makes the contributions consumers and everyday people important to advancing the body of research on MS. By inviting such a disparate range of contributors to focus their efforts in compact windows (only 24 hours), Breakthroughs to Cures hopes to garner ideas on ways to change the medical system. 

Learn how you can participate in the free gaming event at Breakthroughs to Cures.

Spray-on Skin Is a Reality

The Skin Gun lets doctors spray real skin cells onto burn victims' skin, allowing them to heal in a fraction of the time required by skin grafts. When treatments this effective can be applied "like paint spraying," how long until they show up in your home first aid kit?

Read the Gizmodo report, and watch the excessively dramatic video from National Geographic.

Food Labels and Grocery Store Memberships: Perfect Partnership?

Safeway has introduced FoodFlex, an online resource for Safeway Club Card members, that gives consumers tracking information about how their past purchases measure up against recommended USDA dietary guidelines. Consumers can find and compare healthier alternatives to their purchases and look at the overall impact those alternatives will have on the household's diet.

Check out the online tutorials at FoodFlex.
Image via flickr user Bruce A Stockwell.