A New Species: The Digital Patient

In another display of beauty, the folks at CDW Healthcare recently released the following infographic describing the rise of the digital patient, a new specifies of mankind. As CDW notes, thanks to innovative mobile technology and the prevalence of broadband networks, patients are investing in their own healthcare more than ever before. Interest in their health and the ability to self diagnose ultimately may be the key to long-term patient engagement, but of course that’s a sticky wicket of its own.

“From searching for a physician online to tracking fitness activities via wearable technology to accessing their personal health records through a portal — patients are embracing mHealth and technologies that will help improve their well-being. In fact, the number of adults using smartphones to monitor their health grew to 75 million in 2012 — a number expected to more than triple by the end of 2014,” CDW writes on its blog.

According to the graphic, patients are “better informed” before they enter their physician’s office, are looking to social media for their health research and are embracing mobile devices as a way to connect with their caregivers. Additionally, the vast majority of patients want access to their medical records online. The graphic also suggests that patients are becoming more aware and attracted to portals, though I’m still skeptical that this is a widespread phenomenon.

Consumers also are getting more interested in wearable health tech, however, and are tracking their outcomes, especially using their smartphones; 112 million devices are expected to be in use by 2018.

Finally, security of the information and its exchange is of the highest importance to consumers , as if is for all of us, but it’s worth pointing out because even with all of the development and patient involvement in their care, they are still concerned about the safety of their information.

Take a look at the following graphic to see if there’s anything surprising here.

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CDW Health: HIMSS Keynoters 2003-2014

I’m a huge fan of kick-ass infographics and the folks at CDW Health continue to deliver. In the company’s most recent image, there’s a succinct and engaging snapshot of the past decade’s HIMSS keynote speakers. Certainly, there are some head scratches here, and looking at them in this way (speakers compiled in a single graphic) might make one wonder if the organization simply threw a bunch of darts at a wall with pictures of random — though successful — leaders hoping to see who they could get.

Dating back to 2003 when the CEO of GE presented the company’s perspective on the space — which looks nothing like the landscape of today — through Newt Gingrich, Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest Airlines (what?!?!?) to Bill Frist (seriously?), Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint-Nextel (see how well that went) and the Clintons, as well as the founder of Twitter, there seems to be little foresight nor planning for which leaders might be able to provide the best perspective on the current and future trends of health IT.

If nothing else, let’s concede that Dennis Quaid was a celebrity job and nothing more, even given the problems he had with his twin children’s health shortly after they were born.

Moving beyond this, though, perhaps most interesting about this graphic is the simple fact that President Bush actually established the ONC, and created much advancement and fodder for HIMSS, and though Gingrich (a Bush ally) was a keynoter, the organization seems to have switched political affiliation, at least in the last two years.

So, what are your thoughts about the following? Have you heard each of these individuals speak? Who was your favorite? Least favorite?

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Reaping the Rewards of a Mobile Health Technology Environment

Patients are not the only ones who will become more engaged as mobile devices continue to infiltrate healthcare; physicians, too, are reaping the so-called rewards.

As the debate continues to rage about the efficiencies created when EHRs are used in a practice setting, there seems to be little argument as to whether tablet PCs, smart phones and even applications like Skype actually improve the business of communication and interaction with patients and their physician partners and physicians with their colleagues.

A physician whom I very much respect, Dr. David DeShan, is one such physician who communicates with patients and colleagues via Skype from his mission outpost in Moscow, Russia.

Spending weeks at a time in Russia each year, he also maintains his status as a partner and practicing physician at a growing OBGYN clinic in Midland, Texas. As an early adopter of the virtual visit, DeShan is able to maintain contact with his patients if they need a consult, and he’s also able to maintain his connection to his practice so he can check labs, review diagnosis and provide counsel to his practice mates should they request it.

By his own admission, he works a full-time practice schedule from abroad in addition to his full schedule as the leader of a  major international mission. By partnering Skype and his EHR, DeShan is essentially a full-time practicing physician without a need to be restricted by the brick and mortar location of his practice. At the same time, he’s able to dedicate himself to his medical mission work in Russia and serve individuals throughout the world’s largest country in places that would never receive even the most primitive of care without him and his network of medical volunteers.

But, I digress. I’ll save DeShan’s story for another day.

The point I’m trying to make is in support of CDW Healthcare’s article “Momentum Surges for mHealth,” which cites a recent IDC Health Insights observation that shows clinicians use more than six mobile devices in the care setting each day.

Accordingly, as the mobile world continues to open new opportunities in all aspects of life, physicians, like all of us, know that they will come to rely more on these devices to practice, communicate and collaborate.

Clinicians and practice leaders continue to embrace the devices in the care setting, and they expect practices to allow them in their work. When technology delivers upon its promise and actually makes life easier, it is obviously going to be supported and used, like DeShan has done with Skype.

The technology helps him bridge gaps and essentially eliminate a half-the-world-away gap between himself and his practice. But, in some places, there are policies in place to inhibit this type of care offering. (Policies in opposition to this type of approach should be considered archaic and simply regrettable.)

The CDW piece goes on to state that according to a University of Chicago School Medicine study, providing tablet PCs to residents actually reduced patient wait times in hospitals. Likewise, the study found that the same residents did not have to look for an open computer for medical charting and actually allowed the residents to spend more time with patients.

Novel concept. Technology working as promised. Not so unbelievable when spelled out so clearly as this.

As I said, mobile health will continue to grow in popularity. If internal policies are not supported and encouraged, you’ll quickly find yourself in a BYOD environment, which is not such a bad thing.

In fact, if it develops or if you’re unable to support your own internal mobile device initiative, set some rules and let it bloom.

According to CDW, “You need to establish and enforce policies for mobile users including setting up passwords, separating personal from corporate data on devices … and you need to educate users on how to securely use mobile devices.”

For a more exacting plan to deal with BYOD, take a look at the following piece: Creating a BYOD Plan Protects Your Practice and Your Employees.

When managing a population that’s more likely to use or own a mobile device like a tablet PC than the rest of the consumer population, the infiltration is well underway so it’s time to begin reaping your mobile rewards.