WEDI Summit Panel Talks mHealth Trends, Patient Empowerment

Mobile health (mHealth) devices and smartphone apps have drawn regulatory attention and concern among health information management (HIM) and privacy and security professionals. But what does the future of mHealth hold for HIM professionals, patients, and clinicians? That’s the question industry experts tackled Wednesday afternoon at the WEDI Healthcare Innovations Summit, held in Chicago.

In a wide-ranging panel discussion that covered wearable health devices, telehealth, health information exchange (HIE), and the user-friendliness of electronic health records (EHRs), panelists attempted to distinguish between mHealth fads and legitimate trends. During the session, “Innovations in Delivery of Care Via Mobile & Web Technologies—New Service Delivery Models,” Deloitte consultant Erik Pupo, and Bryan “Buzz” White, founder and CEO of manageMD, sought to define “patient engagement.”

Pupo says the market for patient engagement products has grown rapidly in recent years, noting that today the term “patient engagement” often means empowering patients through consumer devices that allow them to track their own health. He pointed to devices such as the Fitbit, a wireless activity tracker, worn on a user’s wrist, which keeps tabs on calories burned, sleep patterns, and other health data, which can be transmitted to the user’s smartphone.

While Pupo lauded the technology, he’s concerned that Fitbit and other devices that facilitate patient-generated data is still greeted with skepticism from physicians. White agreed with Pupo about clinician skepticism, adding that patient engagement used to refer to patient compliance.

“We’re taking great strides in capturing patient data and presenting it to physicians, but if it didn’t come to them from web of trust from other physicians, it’s not trustworthy for them,” White said. “We need to find trustworthy sources for physicians. Once we get that established, we’ll be able to push the envelope in patient engagement.”

Pupo and White also agreed that mHealth technologies should never be a replacement for face-to-face patient-physician interaction. Rather, these tools should be used as an extension of traditional clinical relationships.

mHealth in 10 Years

White, a self-described Google Glass enthusiast, thinks that the wearable device will change how physicians and patients interact. Google Glass will prevent doctors from having their backs to their patients while they plug in EHR information, White hopes.

“I think human-computer interaction will go the way of the dodo,” White said.
“Little elements are happening. The whole purpose of Google Glass is [to be] hands-free. Remove computer interaction. Would love to see that happen in healthcare, see it take off.”

White says the future will bring the age of the informed consumer. For instance, he wants to be able to research potential physicians the same way he would research any major purchase or investment.

“If I can have buyer’s remorse over a physician that’s a good place to be,” White said.

Pupo predicted that telehealth and the concept of e-visits with physicians will become increasingly common, particularly in the mental health realm, but will require a lot of forethought and planning. And like White, he predicts that cost pressures will push consumers to be more educated about the healthcare system in general. He says that too often, consumers only learn about their health after something bad happens.


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