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Patients and Doctors Have Smartphones – Why Aren’t They Communicating?

A Pew Internet Report published this month suggests a wide disparity in mobile healthcare use by members of the general public as compared to their physicians. Overall, 19% of smartphone owners have installed a health management application. 52% report obtaining health information via their phones. But only 9% report receiving any text updates from their physicians concerning health and medical issues.

…with all this facilitating technology in place, why aren’t physicians using it to communicate with their patients?

Certainly, use of smartphones and web-enabled tablets is prevalent among caregivers. According to this article by Dan Rowinski, 62% of physicians use digital tablets and the only device they use more than a smartphone is the stethoscope.

So with all this facilitating technology in place, why aren’t physicians using it more to communicate with their patients? The answers are simultaneously simple and complex.

…physicians are very busy people.

For example, many physicians have an entrenched system of paper-based patient records. Digitizing these records is a task formidable in time, money and an uncertain return on investment. Add to that the specter of compliance with regulations regarding Electronic Health Records, and you have very real impediments to change.

Let’s also note that physicians are very busy people. Their days are already filled with administrative tasks and treating patients directly. Asking them to make time to learn new ways to use and engage in patient mobile healthcare applications is, in most cases, impractical. You simply can’t ask them to add yet another layer to their already complex world.

In my opinion, to get physicians to move in this direction requires three things to happen. First, something in their current routine needs to be eliminated, to provide the time necessary to do the new tasks. Next, adoption of the new routine needs to promise such dramatic improvements in their practice as to be indispensible. Finally, the learning curve necessary to adopt the new technology needs to be tiny – measured in minutes rather than days.

I’d be very interested in hearing from practices that have made the transition, and what they learned in the process.

 

Posted in: Digital Health, Healthcare Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Medical Devices, Medical Device Marketing, Medical Devices, mHealth, Patients as Healthcare Consumers, Smartphones

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Wearable health technology is the latest fashion

I recently came across a comment from Theo Ahadone, of IMS Research, who says that wearable health technology “is projected to exceed $2.9 billion in 2016, accounting for at least half of all wearable technology sales.”

A potential market that size is going to attract a lot of developers. Look at what we’re already seeing in mobile health apps. (MobiHealthNews recently issued a report on 13,000+ health apps for the iPhone alone.) Ahadone is referring to technology such as clothing that monitors vital signs, electroencephalography headsets and other sensors that are intended to treat disease and/or increase health awareness.

Many (most?) of these new health tech devices are being aimed at the biggest chronic health issues, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. How the information gained by these monitors is used is vital. In some cases, the wearers are the only ones to see the results. In others, the data is automatically shared with a healthcare provider. And this, I think, will be an essential determinant in the success of any wearable health technology. If the products don’t show clinical relevance, they simply won’t be adopted by physicians.

I also think market forces will result in wearable technology originally intended for fitness enthusiasts to morph over into medical devices, perhaps much quicker and in novel applications never considered previously. These will not only combat disease, but also alert the wearer to physiological and behavioral patterns that can presage the onset of disease.

Still, I believe disease management is where things will take off most rapidly. This position is reinforced by survey done earlier this year by Paul Sonnier of the Digital Health Group on LinkedIn. The question posed was What is the biggest human health benefit derived from using digital health solutions? The overwhelming response was “Disease management”, with 49% of the votes (as of today n=407).  People recognize the overall benefit of such products to help manage chronic illness. Perhaps this is the first step to the ultimate goal of disease prevention. (Which, by the way, garnered second place, with 30% of the votes.)

 

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