When it comes to health technology and new mobile apps, we often jump right into a discussion about cool features and social media. But the real question should be impact. What positive impact are we having on patients and their physicians, the ultimate gatekeepers?
The bottom line for most physicians is efficiency: “How can I be more productive with the time I have with my patients given the clinical load I carry?” Therefore, a good place to start in any technology impact discussion is how to enhance the physician-patient interaction to make it better and more efficient.
There are three important activities that influence physician efficiency:
1) Precise diagnosis of ailments
2) Patient education support
3) After-care compliance and home monitoring
These are also three activities that can have a significant influence on patient outcomes.
All three of these are time-consuming but critical activities, and all of them can benefit greatly from technology.
1) Precise Diagnosis
During the typical 15-minute office visit, in addition to collecting as much medical and family history as possible, physicians will review a patient’s symptoms. Very often they’re listening for that random clue that might influence the diagnosis, something that maybe the patient hasn’t thought of or hasn’t remembered since the last office visit.
When a patient walks in a doctor’s office, particularly if they don’t have a caregiver with them, they often are stressed and very often forget or misread symptoms that might have happened at home. It’s kind of like when you take your car into the shop and suddenly that engine knock isn’t there anymore, and the garage guy rolls his eyes and tells you to bring it back when there is a real problem.
Technology can play a supportive role here by capturing a wide range of patient symptoms as they are experienced at home, at work or socializing with friends.
One solution to this challenge is an mHealth (mobile health) iPhone-based symptom tracker. A mobile app can capture relevant patient experience data and efficiently provide it to the physician to inform the diagnosis – information that the patient might not even remember or consider important. By providing additional diagnostic clues, a symptom tracker will enhance the conversation about health between the physician and patient.
2) Patient Education Support
One of the biggest frustrations for many doctors is the lack of time to truly provide disease education to their patients. By the time they have completed a diagnosis, determined a course of care and written a prescription, there is often no time to coach the patient about their disease.
Physicians look for credible, unbranded sources of helpful education that can offload this important element of good patient care. This is an area that pharma, with its extensive disease-related resources, can play a valuable role. Tutorials, video, and easy-to-digest content can improve patient engagement and ultimately lead to better health outcomes.
3) Monitoring and Compliance in Aftercare
Patient aftercare can be greatly improved using technology – particularly for patients who have a complicated or inconvenient health regimen.
One example is a personalized remote monitoring device for cardiac patients. Congestive heart failure (CHF) patients need to stay within certain health parameters to avoid a second heart attack. A monitoring device that tracks several key health parameters can provide early detection if a patient starts to veer from their personal stable baseline. A personalized algorithm can detect the beginnings of a cascade into a serious condition – even before the patient feels anything – giving healthcare professionals the opportunity to admit or attend to the patient before the symptoms become life threatening.
A monitoring tool like this improves quality of life for patients and greatly improves the efficiency of the entire healthcare system.
Making it easier for physicians
For physicians, if we can make their lives easier, they’re going to take note. If we can help them manage patient care faster, or take over the burden of patient education, they’ll be grateful. This is an important role that pharma could fill.
Only by providing value, will pharma earn the right to tell its story.