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?