It's not just about docs anymore, it's about what the marketplace demands.
Meaningful use -- it's not just for healthcare providers anymore. Patients are paying attention to what meaningful use of electronic health data entails and why it's important; they're understanding, and now they want it.
The federal government's ambitious plan to drive health IT adoption worked its way into the conversation Jan. 7 at the Digital Health Summit, a two-day workshop in the midst of the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas.
"It's not about the physician (any more) – it's about everybody but the physician," said Samir Damani, the founder and CEO of MD Revolution.
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In keynotes by Epocrates' Abbe Don and Lygeia Ricciardi, director of consumer eHealth for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the meaning was clear: Consumers want control over their health information, and devices and solutions that help them do this and show what they should be doing will take precedence over any doctor with a kindly disposition and less-than-accommodating office hours.
The concern for doctors, said Christopher Wasden, managing director for PricewaterhouseCoopers, is unless they adopt mHealth technology that improves their patients' health and wellness, those patients will go somewhere else for their healthcare.
That consumers are flocking to mHealth devices like wearable health and fitness monitors is evident. Those devices are giving them the data that used to reside solely with doctors, and allowing them to take charge of their health and wellness. mHealth is allowing them to monitor their health in real-time, take steps to improve their health or prevent a medical issue, and deal in a more proactive manner with chronic conditions or health concerns brought on by aging.
mHealth devices that can do this are, therefore, meaningful. To Don, vice president of consumer experiences for Epocrates, they fulfill four goals: They "give me my … data," they make it beautiful or at least relevant to me, they allow me to act on that information, and they give me a unified view of my healthcare needs and concerns.
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It's therefore important for doctors to adopt mHealth tools that show value to their patients, such as wearable sensors and monitors that fit into the fabric of their lives and don't make healthcare a chore. That was the focus of a panel session on wearable sensors, a market expected to gross $12 billion in four years and one taking up a considerably larger section of CES Exhibit Hall space this year. Some of those sensors are now helping to detect potential concussions in athletes, providing real-time biometric feedback, even helping diabetics constantly manage their blood sugar levels.
"We're really trying to deploy computing onto the body," said David Icke, CEO of MC10, which has developed a remote sensor that fits into a skullcap to help detect hits to the head that could result in a concussion, and is now getting ready to market a skin-based sensor that looks like a Band-Aid and collects biometric data.
That panel – and others during the first day of the summit – pointed out that while consumers want their data, physicians can and should be on hand to make that data useful to them. The doctor is like the conductor of an orchestra in that sense, managing all the different sections of instruments into one cohesive symphony.
And the government is getting involved, too. During her keynote, Ricciardi pointed out the benefits of the Blue Button program, giving consumers one simple button that they can push to collect all their healthcare data. Launched initially by the Veterans' Administration, it's now being extended into the public realm, with participation from healthcare providers, payers, labs, pharma, even retail pharmacies.
To help that process, Ricciardi announced the beta launch of the Blue Button Connector, a website that will give consumers all the information they need to take advantage of the Blue Button program. She said the site is being rolled out slowly and carefully.
"We've been spending a lot of time on websites lately," she pointed out.