Are consumers ready to accept technology?

By Eric Wicklund
05:39 PM
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Healthcare providers working to employ new technology need to know if their patients are ready, willing and able to use that technology.

That’s the basis behind PAM, the Patient Activation Measure survey tool developed by Insignia Health to measure a respondent’s ability to understand and use technology. The tool takes on added importance in light of the push toward consumer-directed healthcare and the advent of new healthcare services like smart phones, wearable bio-sensors and chronic disease monitoring devices.

“This goes far beyond health risk assessments,” said Chris Delaney, chief executive officer of Portland, Ore.-based Insignia Health. “We’re really building a competency-based model of health activation.”

According to a recent Harris Poll conducted in partnership with the Cellular Telephone Industry of America, nearly 60 percent of physicians surveyed are interested in mobile health, while 40 percent of the general population is also interested in the technology. Both groups agree that mobile health – defined as mobile solutions that would allow patients and physicians to communicate and allow physicians to remotely monitor, diagnose conditions and administer medications – would improve healthcare.

“The explosion of innovation within the mobile health industry comes at a time when Americans are increasingly focused on how healthcare is provided in this country,” said Joe Porus of Harris Interactive. “The study illustrates that the activation levels of consumers and physicians help explain expectations of mobile health technologies.”

Insignia Health’s PAM tool measures answers to specific questions in a survey and groups the respondent into one of four levels. Those classified as in Levels 1 and 2 tend to be passive in managing their health and don’t see a relation between good behaviors and good outcomes. Those in Levels 3 and 4 are more proactive.

The PAM tool also indicates that those in Levels 1 and 2 aren’t interested in technology or comfortable with using technological tools, while those in Levels 3 and 4 are comfortable with technology and would use it to improve their health outcomes. Conversely, the Harris poll indicates that those in Levels 1 and 2 have the most to gain from technology because they aren’t taking care of themselves, while those in Levels 3 and 4 are likely to be healthier and early adopters of new technology.

Delaney says PAM will come in handy as healthcare providers work to define their audiences, then tailor their messages to that audience.

“We have to get as far away as possible from the ‘Where’s Waldo?’ aspect of healthcare,” he said. “We’re targeting people’s behaviors, fundamentally writing to one’s self-managing abilities.”

The challenge, said Delaney, lies in identifying those in Levels 1 and 2 and communicating with them.

“How do you not overwhelm them?” he asked. “We’ve failed so far with them by throwing all this stuff at them. They’re driving the dollars in the healthcare system and they’re the emotional ones, but they’re not embracing technology. How do you get to them?”