The use of technology to improve health care outcomes

Knowledge, it is said, is power. The advent of wearable health monitoring devices is being seen as an enabler to promote healthy outcomes through the use of technology. Giving one the ability to track a diverse range of health indicators from sleep patterns and calorie monitoring has meant we now are capable of having real-time personal monitoring tools that potentially could improve our health and well-being outcomes.

However, unlike the next consumer gimmick, these devices are already beginning to have an impact on the health sector, with the ability to disrupt the traditional reactive patient treatment health care model. Recent studies show that the use of healthcare apps for Apple devices is growing more than 80% faster than the apps in the entire mobile industry.

But that’s not all…the use of these devices and the data harnessed by them has the potential to reach out and revolutionise patient care, to a much greater audience than those who want solely to measure their day-to-day exercise progress or calorie intake. Numerous examples are out there, but there are a couple that I want to share with you:

  • Accessing a patient’s electronic health record and broadcasting it to Google Glass, for example, allows a clinician to view patient data, including lab data and vital signs without the need to divert away to a computer
  • Linking a patient’s personal health data recorded on a wearable device to an electronic patient record (epr) in a clinic/hospital setting. Apple is working with a number of suppliers, towards transferring data between Apple’s Health Kit platform and the epr. Medical professionals could use the ‘right data’ to detect patient warning signs more easily and prevent diseases and complications before they worsen rather than reacting to them after they occur
  • Intel’s funded partnership with the Michael J Fox Foundation to research into improving the monitoring of Parkinson’s disease. Through the use of wearable technology, patient data is collected to measure symptoms and track the disease’s progression. Data collected from patients, for example, following a new therapy routine or taking new medication and the effects this has on movement frequency may lead to further insights into the disease

Whilst wearable device technology is attracting much interest in the health sector, it’s important that we do not lose sight that technology alone will not solve the sector’s problems – I have seen this many times where today’s tech becomes tomorrow’s doorstop.

The sector needs to look at ways to ensure that through the use of technology, society at large will benefit (…and assuming regulatory issues, buy-in from heath care professionals and personal privacy concerns amongst others can be resolved – but that’s for another blog!).

There needs to be a clear focus on the “meaningful” data to be targeted to improve specific health outcomes, otherwise the market will remain dominated by fad and noise and more big data. Technology should be aligned to areas e.g. chronic illness such as diabetes, or epilepsy where it can help shift from a reactionary care model to predictive and preventive care, leading potentially to a reduction in patient visits to surgeries/hospitals. This may in turn aid to the reduction in long term patient health costs.

Finally, it’s worth noting that at a recent conference I attended one of the speakers outlined that just under 2% of Scotland’s population account for approximately 50% of health expenditure; many of these will be chronic patients for whom these technologies may benefit greatly.

What do you think? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.