An Engaged Patient is a Healthier Patient: Connecting Providers and Patients with New Technologies – Part 2

stethoscope and pocket full of pens close up, blue tint

The age of digital technologies has had a major impact on a variety of industries –healthcare in particular. With patients becoming more engaged with their health information, healthcare organizations are transforming the way they operate and share patient records. In this three part series, we will highlight the ways in which digital records and health information is accessed by patients and how organizations are handling the need for increased connectivity and robust data networks.

Not too long ago, the only personal device people had to monitor their health was the trusty old bathroom scale, and maybe a blood pressure cuff they could use at their local pharmacy. Today, we are seeing an explosion of personal, wearable, or otherwise easily accessible devices and apps used to track activity and fitness levels, monitor health problems and even diagnose disease.

Apps and wearables let patients take charge of their own health and wellness. They also provide important information to providers — information that can be integrated with medical records to create a complete health profile. In some cases, apps and wearables may be the only or best source of a patient’s health information, especially for children or patients who can’t articulate their health problem. This information can help providers make faster, more responsive clinical decisions and counsel their patients on health behaviors.

Consider these examples of mobile apps and wearables, which are a small fraction of those currently on the market:

  • Irregular heartbeats can indicate a variety of health problems. One company has a wireless blood pressure monitor with extra battery life. The monitor is compatible with iOS and Android and is the only wireless monitor that can track irregular heartbeats over time, providing users with warnings that they should contact a doctor if the irregularity continues.
  • More and more seniors are choosing to “age in place” using apps and devices that help them stay in touch electronically with providers, family members, emergency responders and other caregivers. One such device is a mobile medical alert system that uses GPS medical alarm location technology to pinpoint the user’s exact location, so the closest available emergency responders are dispatched no matter where the user travels.
  • Emergency medical information (EMI) is vital in emergencies. It can help people identify what is wrong, allow providers to give appropriate medical care, provide the necessary contact information for the patient’s physician and family, and improve time to treatment. Now, EMI is available on smart phones, even those with “locked” screens.

In the not-too-distant future, apps and wearables may be used for more than monitoring a patient’s current state of health. Consider how apps are used in the banking industry, for example, to provide “what if” scenarios for investments and other financial decisions. In the case of health apps, such a scenario might be “what if” a patient decreased his caloric intake by 500 calories a day and increased his activity level by 10 percent? What would that do to the patient’s diabetes risk?

The possibilities for information and analysis are almost endless. But with those endless possibilities comes the need for more and more data to be incorporated into a patient’s health record. Providers need the skills, processes and data infrastructure to capture, share and analyze the plethora of patient-generated health information without overwhelming their network.

Today, we are seeing an explosion of personal, wearable, or otherwise easily accessible devices and apps used to track activity and fitness levels, monitor health problems and even diagnose disease.

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