Emerging Mobile Health Technologies- Finally an answer to achieving Patient-Centered Care?(Part 1)

Recently I encountered a moment that gave me encouragement about the future of mobile health technologies and their acceptance by patients. While I am the dean of the USF College of Pharmacy (a member of USF Health), I still prioritize time to see patients in the ambulatory care clinic that I established almost 15 years ago. During a recent patient encounter, I was asking my patient, who is 84, if she would be able to schedule a return visit on a particular date in the near future. She said “Let me see,” and proceeded to pull out an Ipod. I sat there mildly amazed at how nimble she was with the device, and how accepting she was of the information that she retrieved from her device. I asked her how she felt about the device, and if she would be open to utilizing the device for health-related education and activities. She expressed that she would not only be open to the idea, but added how she felt that such technologies could provide her with more timely information “on her time,” and not someone else’s time. Right then my notion of enhancing patient engagement with emerging mobile health technologies was not only confirmed, but took on a new heightened sense of purpose and reality.

As the country grapples with accepting and implementing the Affordable Care Act, along with looming challenges for patients to gain access to adequate and affordable healthcare, I view mobile health (mHealth) technologies as a means of improving many of the daunting challenges that people in our communities face today. Long waits to be seen by providers, limited time, limited travel resources, limited access to THEIR patient records (and labs), lack of insurance, lack of discretionary finances, and the list can continue. If we as health systems’ providers can find effective means of providing mHealth technologies to patients, we can substantially improve many of these challenges. Through my work with the American Heart Association, we know that an overwhelming number of Americans currently use mobile phones, and many even have smartphones for their daily use. The use of this communication medium will only increase with time, and offers a grand opportunity to engage patients about their health.

The public is ready to accept these technologies; mobile downloads continue to increase annually, and companies expect that by the year 2016 smartphone sales will outnumber mobile phone sales (Canalys.com). The ability for patients to access mHealth apps will continue to expand.  Companies such as Scanadu, Withings, AliveCor, Bosch Healthcare, and many others are providing various mobile health devices for patients to effectively monitor their own health, while also providing the opportunity to provide this information with others of their choice. Hopefully their health providers will be included on their list of recipients. The health system must prepare to provide guidance to patients concerning these technologies, assess the effectiveness of these technologies, and be accepting of the transformative nature of these technologies. What we providers must NOT do is reject the presence of these technologies; they are here to stay. There is a grand opportunity to capitalize on having patients truly Engaged in their own health. Disruptive technologies have affected many other segments of society, and now it is health’s turn. I am prepared to (Em)Brace (for) the Future of Health in our country!

Stay tuned for “Emerging Mobile Health Technologies- Finally an answer to achieving Patient-Centered Care?Part 2 where I discuss the impact that these disruptive MHealth technologies will have on the health system, and particularly health providers. If not implemented correctly, these technologies can produce unintended consequences, though I feel proper planning and innovative foresight can avert many problems.  See you soon!

Transformative Healthcare- elements