5 most disruptive health IT innovations

By Michelle McNickle
03:10 PM

Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business professor and author of the books Disrupting Class and The Innovator's Precription, described disruptive technologies as "cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use." And when it comes to health IT, disruptive technologies are springing up left and right, allowing for less costly care and better communication. From telemedicine to point-of-care payments to medical tourism, disruptive technologies have revolutionized the industry. 

According to Natalie Hodge, MD, author of the blog Healthergy.net and co-founder and CHO of Personal Medicine, the most recent and influential disruptive technologies can be found in something quite small -- your smartphone. "It's not about this company or that one," she said. "The most disruptive health IT innovations right now are mobile."

[See also: Mobile app brings doc into the equation.]

And others, including Claudia Tessier, president of mHealth Initiative, have echoed that sentiment. Tessier recently said changes being forced on healthcare by mobile technologies are coming from both physicians and patients, who are finding new uses for their mobile devices and are asking healthcare organizations to catch up. 

So grab your smartphone and take a trip to the app store as Hodge suggests the five most disruptive health IT innovations within the mobile arena. 

1. In-house applications. According to Hodge, applications that can be used in the home are impacting the way patients are monitored and receive care. "We're talking about sensors that can go into people’s shoes," she said. For example, in their book Wireless sensor networks for healthcare applications, Terrance Dishongh and Michael McGrath describe the use of data collecting using mobile devices to validate and test sensor networks in clinical and home environments. In addition, in 2010, Imec and Host Centre developed a mobile heart monitoring system, which allows patients to view their electrocardiogram on an Android phone. "The aging population, combined with the increasing need for care and the rising costs of healthcare, has become a challenge for our society," said a company official. "Mobile health, which integrates mobile computing technologies with healthcare delivery systems, will play a crucial role in solving this problem by delivering a more comfortable, more efficient and more cost-efficient healthcare."

2. Lightweight tools. Hodge said these types of apps are very disruptive and can be thought of as simple self-management tools or behavioral management tools. "Consumers may prefer to keep their fitness stuff, for example, in an app," she said. "Lightweight tools are disruptive to not just health IT, but also the entire market share of traditional medicine." For example, apps such as American Well offer consumers on-demand healthcare services through communication channels. NoMoreClipBoard promises users the ability to compile, manage, and share medical records quickly and easily, "helping to forever eliminate the doctor’s office clipboard." TrainingPeaks, an app that helps consumers “achieve optimum health," creates fitness plans to share with a doctor.

[See also: Mobile apps keep doctors on the go.]

3. Health communities. "Crowd source knowledge has the potential of being disruptive to, say, a doctor being in an office and doing a visit," said Hodge. For example, patients with diabetes have access to online forums to share experiences and tips, as opposed to visiting a clinic and having a specialist see them. "There's incredible value now through mobile health communities," she added. "They're basically Wordpress blogs that enable patients to interact with other patients and learn from them."

4. Mobile content. According to Hodge, the first steps people take after recognizing they're sick have changed. "When I started, the doctor was your first line; you went to see your doctor first, but that's not the case now. The first thing people do is go to the Web, and what we’ve learned within the past year is it's not even on a lap-top -- it's on their mobile device." After searching Google or WebMd, people turn to their lightweight tools to self-diagnose, said Hodge. "That’s the ecosystem of health content on the Web. It's disruptive to the entire health IT system because we’re talking about users in a different business model all together. It's not a patient going to see a doctor and billing an insurance company. We're talking about self diagnosis on the Web and potential cost savings for our overall healthcare system."

5. E-commerce. Looking ahead, Hodge sees mobile devices becoming necessary to patient care. And because of that, disruptive innovations will occur in the form of payment portals and content membership for patients. "I'm a pediatrician, and in my field, we have young people who all have either iPhones or Androids," she said. "Within several years, people are going to use their smartphone, and they’re going to use it first."

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