CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Don't be offended if Dr. Greg Weidner pulls out his iPhone or tablet during an office visit. He's not checking his email.
"To manage the electronic health record of our patients in real time as we see them," said Dr. Weidner.
These days the medical director of primary care innovation and proactive health for Carolinas Healthcare System is prescribing a lot more apps than medications.
"These powerful computers in people's pockets I think give them the opportunity to change the way they experience and interact with their health," Dr. Weidner.
"We will be using them in partnership with patients."
If the apps are used properly Dr. Weidner believes they can make healthcare better.
"There's no question that for individuals being actively engaged in their health and their healthcare it's a critical factor in their success," said Weidner.
He points to a number of apps that are capable of measuring vital signs, blood sugar levels, heart rate and sleep habits.
Tests that you would typically pay for if they were done in his office. Some apps even allow doctors to transfer test results directly to the patient through their smartphone saving you another visit to the doctor, which is time and money.
"Some estimates from a study earlier this year put the potential cost savings of mobile health somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 billion dollars over the course of the next decade," said Dr. Weidner.
And he's making sure the technology is not getting in the way of the doctor patient relationship by guiding them on how to meet their own personal health goals with the use of digital help.
"We will take the time in the office to help people get those set up and understand how to use them and that's important," added Weidner.
Now just before the government shutdown the FDA released guidance on how medical apps would be regulated.
Without that FDA guidance, hospitals were unsure how and which apps to allow within a hospital, and no one was quite clear on how data collected by patients could be shared in a way that improved care without legal troubles.
For more information on the FDA guidance: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm369431.htm