Communicating with patients outside of the office is not something most physicians do, but, according to Scher, this is already changing dramatically. Many physicians use patient portals to interact with patients through secure messaging.
Though electronic health records from various companies may not talk to each other, patients are able to get information from their various providers through these portals.
Video conferencing is another way that physicians will likely be communicating outside of traditional office visits with patients. It is going to be used even more as insurers create vehicles for its reimbursement, Scher.
At this point, many mobile health apps are tailored toward diet and fitness. Few really good health apps are available, and there is not much research showing that they are effective, Scher said. Apps that have shown promise have focused on diabetes management, smoking cessation, and prenatal education.
Scher knows a urologist developing an app with an algorithm that helps physicians diagnose different types of urinary symptoms, he said. Mobile technologies will be important in areas like clinical trials where patients can be recruited via social media and much of the study will be done via technology as patients track vital signs and adverse events.
The final realm is surgery, where Karger said there are many early-stage technologies in the works. Because urologists operate around areas with highly critical anatomy, technology is moving toward sensing and visualization and helping navigate around structures when performing a dissection, for instance.
There will be a time in the near future when many of the skills currently used in the transplantation field will no longer be needed, Dr. Solez said. For example, bioartificial kidneys might one day be able to do more than filter waste with tubular cells in the dialysis apparatus.
“I can imagine a wearable artificial kidney, one that patients could wear or implant so they could have an artificial device with human cells but that is mainly silicon and plastic,” Dr. Solez said.
“It would be a tremendous change that would make the way we are making a living obsolete,” he said. “It needs to be confronted … medical practices will change and professionals will have to learn other skills.”