The sign outside the office said, “virtual nurse.” Inside the small office was an array of computer equipment and a single person, headphones on.
I passed it as I made my way out of the hospital after visiting hours were over in ICU, and it reminded me of some of our research into “wellness,” and the influence of modern tech.
It also reminded me how fortunate we are to live in an era when virtual “life support” is available from medical doctors, mental health professionals, and hospitals. We’ve progressed from the sterile “don’t touch me” stance of the medical profession that existed for years, into something more akin to a doctor’s personal visit to your home—thanks to virtual abilities. No, they can’t bandage your wound, but they can look at it and advise you whether you need emergency care.
It’s actually quite amazing what they can do “over the phone,” thanks to built-in cameras. With all our practice taking selfies we can easily turn the phone to let the virtual nurse take a look.
Here’s just some of the things we’re watching:
• At-home wellness test kits such as Viome, which tests your personal microbiome, and Habit, which gives you a personalized diet based on at-home testing, are some of the brands at the forefront of the do-it-yourself wellness movement.
• Four of the U.S.’s largest hospitals—Intermountain Healthcare, Ascension, SSM Health and Trinity Health—are reportedly banding together to form a non-profit that will make a steady supply of affordable, generic medicines.
• Serenbe, a “wellness community,” is a designed landscape meant to support residents’ emotional, physical, and even spiritual well-being. Built in the middle of a 40K-acre forest, Serenbe mandates that all homes must be built in the same style. In addition, all garbage is collected underground through manholes, and residents who have cars are not allowed to park in front of their houses, as no one has a driveway.
• Healthcare provider Humana added the Five Minute Journal app, leveraging the need for mindfulness, to its retinue of programs and services that can earn users incentives. The app promotes taking five minutes in the morning and at night to reflect.
All of these things will supplement the demand for more health care professionals, particularly in nursing. As Boomers increasingly want shortcuts to health, the virtual nurse just may be our “life support” in more ways than one.