'Prevention' name of the game

Consumers will lead the charge, healthcare leaders say

The problem with healthcare these days? It's just not fun.

It's all a matter of perspective, according to panelists in a Monday afternoon "Super Session" at the mHealth Summit titled "Executives Unplugged: Where's the Disconnect Between mHealth and Mobile Technology?" Healthcare, they said, is more complicated than it has to be, needs an overhaul of its payment structure, and focuses on sickness when it should be focusing on health.

[See also: Docs take mHealth baby steps, use tablets for the basics.]

"The reality is it's complex, but we make it more complex than it has to be," said Samir Damani of MD Revolution. "Just eat right and exercise – that's it."

Moderated by Pat Wise, vice president of mHIMSS, the panel featured Damani, Al Shar of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Geeta Nayyar of AT&T ForHealth, and Robert Lamberts, a physician who quit his Augusta, Ga. practice to create a new practice that charges a flat fee per patient.

All agreed that technology – in particular, mHealth – is changing the healthcare landscape for the better, but it can't do the job alone. Shar pointed out that healthcare professionals and technology "use the same words but speak different languages," and neither seems interested in changing. It's going to be up to the patient, he said, to effect that change.

"Whether we like it or not, we as individuals are going to have to take more control of our healthcare," he said.

[See also: mHealth app takes on nation's leading cause of death.]

mHealth tools that connect patient and caregivers hold promise in getting rid of traditional barriers, said Nayyar, chief medical officer for AT&T's ForHealth division. More importantly, she said, the mHealth process isn't about the technology alone, but how that technology is used to improve relationships and enhance outcomes.

Lamberts, who criticized a healthcare system that rewards doctors for wasteful practices, said mHealth technology isn't taken seriously enough, so that doctors who use it "are doing something that they don't get paid for." The idea, he said, is to shift the thinking from a system that treats people when they're sick to one that connects with people to ensure they don't get sick.

And consumers, the panel said, will lead that charge.

"It's going to be a different consumer – it already is a different consumer," said Nayyar.

Damani called it the "paradigm for prevention," or measure, monitor and motivate.

"Make it fun," Damani added. "Shift the paradigm – personalize it."

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