So here's the scenario:
You need to find out your test results from the endoscopy scan you had earlier in the week. Do you:
1. Call the hospital and wait in an endless queue only to find out that the specialist dealing with your case is in the operating room, performing lifesaving surgery.
2. Call your doctor who may or may not have your test results, and may or may not be able to interpret them for you.
3. Or, do you connect to the hospital's patient infrastructure support network with your Android tablet using the login credentials that they gave you after your examination, and retrieve the embedded video clip that show the results of your tests, annotated by the specialist.
When you want more information, you tap the link to request a one-on-one virtual appointment with your specialist (or another specialist on the team). Your tablet looks up your calendar and syncs it with the calendar of the endoscopy support team to find the best available appointment time.
When you "attend" this appointment, using the forward facing camera on your tablet, you can tap away from the video window to accept the physical appointment with the endoscopy team. The specialist then drops in via picture-in-picture to clarify one of the scans from your tests and reassures you that what you are seeing is quite routine. The specialist "draws" on the scan in real time, using a light pen to emphasize areas and updates the feed to your tablet.
Does the third option sound like science fiction?
Maybe, but not for long. In the UK, some of the more forward-looking Health Trusts are exploring exactly this type of patient interaction to provide a "Patient Portal" that allows patients to be kept informed and up to date regarding their care. This will shorten the waiting times (in waiting rooms and for results) and reduce the need for patients to travel long distances to a hospital.
While all of this can and be done by using conventional desktop equipment, the interface of the iPad and Android tablets lends itself more readily to this kind of interactive experience.
This maybe the future, but the future is closer than you think.
Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.