The integration of technology into health care is nothing new. Despite significant advances in health care-based technology over the last decade, up until fairly recently, patients still received most of the information on their health and wellness directly from their physician. Today, the proliferation of mobile health care apps and wearable devices is reformulating the ways in which individuals monitor their own health and drive their health care choices.
Patients can now track their heart rate, count steps and calories, monitor their stress levels and sugar intake, as well as receive advice and health care tips all through a bracelet they wear on their wrist or by tapping an app on their smart phone. This has caused some in our sector to become increasingly concerned that by relying on these apps to drive their health and wellness, individuals will rely less on the advice and services of medical professionals.
The reality is that these apps are fostering patients to become more engaged in their own health and wellness and to take greater responsibility for staying healthy — eating better, exercising more and finding additional ways to reduce stress. This can lead to nothing but better outcomes.
So the question becomes: how then do we truly integrate this technology into today’s health care system? First, I think we have to view the increased engagement of patient’s in their own health care as an opportunity for doctors and patients to enter into more meaningful and “bigger picture” conversations about long-term health and wellness.
As providers, we also have to work with technology partners to create systems to collect and share mobile health care data with other providers as well as with our patients. This makes it possible to have treatment and disease management based on a 360-degree health picture visible by both patient and doctor. One organization that is doing this quite effectively is Ochsner Health System out of Louisiana. Through their Digital Medicine Program they monitor patients through their mobile devices or wearables and proactively engage with them to modify behaviors, adjust medications, etc. They even set up an O Bar, like an Apple genius bar, to assist patients who wish to use today’s emerging health technology. I believe that it is pioneers like the Ochsner Health System who are paving the way toward greater digital adoption among consumers and providers alike.