mHealth is empowering patients and can empower providers if leveraged

Patients are going to increasingly self-track, self-diagnose and self-treat
By Marc Sebes
08:47 AM
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As patients increase their usage of mhealth products and services, some providers are working to create effective solutions and programs utilizing this technology to reduce costs, enhance care management and improve outcomes. Without a collective provider focus on education and engagement, however, patients are left to track and interpret their own health information.

Patients now have tools readily available in their home and on their smartphones to self-test, self-diagnosis and self-treat. This ability to self-manage one's health, whether through websites, mobile apps, or in-home devices, is empowering patients to choose how, when and with whom they receive care.

Individuals can choose traditional in-person services at a hospital or clinic; a more convenient virtual visit with a tele-physician using a solution like Doctors on Demand, Teledoc or MDLive; or even select a house call utilizing newer services like Heal or Pager. Also available to patients are websites and applications, like WebMD, providing powerful and easy-to-use self-guided searches that do not involve any direct discussion with a provider.

Along with the increasing number of care options available to patients, there is also the growing adoption of in-home and wearable health and fitness devices, placing valuable health data in the hands of the patient. Fitbit, Apple Health and Samsung's S Health platforms use a device and application to track and show users' blood pressure, blood glucose, weight, sleep, nutrition and daily activity trends. Additionally, specialized technologies, going beyond the typical vitals and activity tracking, now make it possible for a person to self-evaluate his or her genetic makeup, blood chemistry, hydration levels, brain activity and even sunlight exposure.

Patients are rapidly adopting these tools and solutions because they offer greater insight into their health and more control over their own outcomes. This rapid innovation is providing patients with increasing convenience and options to receive care, diagnoses and treatment in the manner they choose. But as these patient behaviors take root, providers remain concerned that this new information will cause them to act too independently.

While empowering patients with this data and technology is positive, there is still a strong need for physician guidance and intervention to accurately interpret and act upon this information. Such tracking can create a continuous, real-time data stream – and provide new and applicable insights into a patient's health. Incorporating mhealth data into the care process and workflow offers not only cost-reducing efficiencies but also helps move healthcare towards a more preventative-based model of care and more effective care-management coordination.

Patients are going to increasingly self-track, self-diagnose and self-treat based on the information presented to them. But, there is a strong opportunity for providers and care managers to lead the way in using this patient generated data to help lead the diagnoses and treatment process for improved patient outcomes and experiences.