Let me introduce Dr. John R. Patrick, President of Attitude LLC. Previously, he worked with IBM for 35 years as the Vice President of Internet Technology, and was one of the founders of the world wide web consortium at MIT in 1994. He also has considerable healthcare experience as a result of working as a hospital board member. Dr. Patrick is also a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, as well as a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
I met Dr. Patrick a few months ago at the Inside 3D Printing conference in New York City, where he was exhibiting his new book, Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare. And while we took plenty of time to discuss the applications of 3D printing in healthcare, Dr. Patrick was equally as eager to discuss another topic he features quite prominently in his book – burgeoning mHealth (mobile health) technologies. Specifically, a trend is emerging wherein patients are making use of these tools to either self-diagnose or collect a wealth of data to bring along with them for their first clinic visit. Dr. Patrick took the time to discuss the applications and challenges of adopting mHealth technologies for the purpose of self-diagnosis, and their adoption in healthcare:
Q: How can we best leverage mHealth and smartphone peripherals for healthcare?
Dr. Patrick: Consumers do not have to be pushed into trying new gadgets. They are buying smartphones and tablets by the millions. The FDA has approved approximately 200 mHealth medical devices. Cedars Sinai Hospital has connected 80,000 patient EHRs with the Apple Health app. This is key. Having devices is nice but the benefit comes from the data they collect.
Q: How will technologies that enable patients to self-diagnose alter existing healthcare practices?
Dr. Patrick: This is a controversial area because some physicians fear that self-diagnosis will lead to self prescribing and possibly self extinction. I believe self-diagnosis is an important development. Studies have shown it to be accurate. The change will come in the relationship with physicians. Savvy consumers and willing doctors will collaborate to consider diagnoses and jointly develop an agree diagnosis and treatment plan. This is a big shift from the days of “do what the doctor tells you”.
Q: What are the challenges for patients and physicians in adopting mHealth technologies?
Dr. Patrick: The challenge is the relationship. It must become data driven and collaborative.
Q: Will FDA regulations help or hinder mHealth technology’s progress?
Dr. Patrick: The FDA is being supportive. Unlike other areas of regulation, consumers will welcome the FDA testing and evaluating technologies that can affect people’s lives.
Q: How will HealthKit in particular benefit patients, physicians, and researchers?
Dr. Patrick: What Cedars-Sinai is doing serves as a good example. Its implementation means when one of the hospital’s patients uses any of the hundreds of apps that create data for the Apple Health database, the data will be retrievable by the physicians who may treat the patients. For example, if a patient has congestive heart failure (CHF) and they use an iPhone compatible blood pressure device, a cardiologist can see the trend of the patient’s blood pressure. Not just when a doctor checks the blood pressure during a visit but the trend defined by the patient. It could be daily, weekly, or hourly.
The Apple Watch will play a major role in the health of millions. It can measure activity level and heart rate and that data will automatically show up in the patient’s EHR. A cardiologist and see continuous data and look for irregularities. A computer such as Watson could look at the data for thousands of patients and create alerts. One thing is clear: this is the beginning of data-driven healthcare.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say regarding mHealth for patient self-diagnosis?
Dr. Patrick: Philips North America conducted a survey of more than 1,000 people about their use of online diagnostic tools. More than 40% said they were comfortable using websites to check their own symptoms. One fourth said they used self diagnostic tools as often as they visit their doctor. About the same number said they used online tools instead of visiting their doctor. I believe self diagnosis is here to stay.
Dr. John R. Patrick is the author of the recently published Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare. Check it out here!