The Third Health Constant

by Chuck Parker, Executive Director, Continua Health Alliance, and Speaker, IHE North American Connectathon Conference 2013

At least two health phenomena are common to all humanity: the experience of health (or illness), and the continual need for health vigilance. In spite of these constants, healthcare has historically been “delivered” in a series of isolated events rather than integrated into daily life and shared between patients and doctors.

Today we embrace a more dynamic point of view that:

  •  individuals are their own primary care providers; and
  • responsible to focus on health prevention and maintenance in consultation with their team of doctors and supporters.

Whether the availability of mhealth tools influenced this more encompassing view or it evolved independently, meaningful use represents a historic opportunity to leverage technology for preventive and consultative care. While Stages 1 and 2 of Meaningful Use are primarily concerned with EHR implementation and clinical measures, the proposed measures for Stage 3 take on patient engagement.

This is where the “human health constants”—awareness of and vigilance about our health, can become linked to the healthcare system in novel ways with potential to leapfrog our personal and national well-being. If ONC’s recommendations come to pass, Stage 3 will encourage medical practices and hospitals to enlist their patients to use health devices and apps, and to accept patient-generated data into EHRs.

Studies of connected health show that when patients incorporate mhealth into their lives—at home, work, and on the go—they recognize the relationship between their health behaviors and experience of health and are consequently better able to self-manage. My prediction is that practices and hospitals embracing Stage 3 will discover a new capacity to bring about positive outcomes through timely, targeted interventions, both at the individual and population levels…

…with one caution: Underlying the presumption of mhealth’s success is the notion of connectivity between systems and devices. The fact is, unless personal health devices work together with minimal effort, patients are unlikely to stick with mhealth tools, and the momentous opportunity for connected health will be lost.

Paradoxically, adopting common technical standards for plug-and-play will facilitate individualized healthcare. With plug and play, patients  can choose their favorite devices, or swap to a new one, with the assurance that they can manage their data and share it with their doctors and support community.

For example, in a diabetes program built for plug and play, patients could choose the glucometer that best suits their needs and lifestyle. Further, plug and play enables individuals to create personal health networks styled to their health needs, using their favorite tools, and share data according to their preferences.

The conundrum of healthcare is that while we all need it, our particulars are as exclusive as a fingerprint. In the case of mhealth, the simplicity of plug and play is the key to overcoming this complexity.

If we aim to succeed in mhealth, plug and play will become the third health constant.

Find out more about connectivity for consumers and their personal health from Chuck Parker during his session on Jan. 30 at the IHE North American Connectathon Conference 2013 in Chicago.  He will discuss in Session 2 “Improving the Quality of Personal Healthcare: Empowering Patients in the Home and Beyond.”

What can you share about your own personal health experiences using mhealth?

About Joyce Sensmeier, MS, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN

Joyce Sensmeier, RN-BC, MS, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN, is HIMSS Vice President, Informatics.
This entry was posted in Blogging, Health IT News and Developments, Interoperability & Standards, Mobile Health or mHealth, Public Policy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Third Health Constant

  1. Deborah Wells says:

    I agree completely with the idea that mobile has the potential to revolutionize patients’ and providers’ experience of health care. One of your points is especially important: “…patients incorporate mhealth into their lives—at home, work, and on the go….”
    It is widely recognized that clinical workflows must be taken into account when delivering new technology to providers. What gets missed is that patients have workflows too. These have largely been ignored by the health care system up to now.
    The biggest help that technology, and in particular mobile, can offer patients is to facilitate merging health care into their daily workflow. Online banking and Amazon have done this in the financial and retail industries. Health care needs to follow their example.
    I would argue that we will be most successful in getting patients to manage their health by addressing patients’ pain points. These include scheduling, referrals, redundant forms, prescriptions, the need to get an on-site visit in order to have even simple matters treated, long wait times in providers’ offices, responsibility for getting documentation from one provider to the next, and more. All of these can be addressed by process improvement and leveraging mobile technology.
    The experience of convenience in notoriously painful transactions, together with mobile monitoring tools and other functions, will make patients more likely to seek appropriate care, comply with clinical instructions, and change their behavior.

  2. I agree with you that individuals are (or should be) their own primary care providers; and
    responsible to focus on health prevention and maintenance in consultation with their team of doctors and supporters.
    The reality is that individuals consult with their doctors when they need help. All the signs of a medical condition that lead up to the need for treatment are in the patient’s memory, whilst it should have been logged on his / her medical record at the practitioner. For example, a patient that is treated for a heart attack probably noticed signs long before it happened. But due to a lack of systems that can provide a conduit for transferring the concern to the doctor, the first consultation often comes too late. If the patient / patient’s employer has some means of notifying the doctor of the symptoms, the heart attack may not have happened.

  3. I have skepticism about the value of mHealth and wonder if it is today’s fad rather than something new of lasting use. For example – can you show me any valid scientific source that has demonstrated that a health app lowers hemoglobin A1c in diabetics or lowers BP in hypertensive patients or results in sustained weight loss in obese patients? Being connected doesn’t automatically translate into changing health behavior, and this has been shown by CMS.
    Also, what about the elderly who don’t use mHealth or even have smart phones? They will soon be 20% of our population, yet we have forgotten them, haven’t we? See the following link:

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