Thursday, February 11, 2016

Healthcare: Is There An App For That?

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Multiple facets of healthcare have changed and evolved throughout the recent years to adapt to the changing technological advances and digital health landscape. As an ePatient and chronic disease fighter and advocate, the digital space is an incredible resource, friend, tool, and more. When I was first diagnosed, social media was a saving grace, in multiple ways. First of all, I had never even heard the words Ankylosing Spondylitis: searching the hashtag on Twitter opened up my eyes to an entire community. Secondly, social media made me feel less alone in a diagnosis that was not only uncommon, but also invisible. Having a sounding board of potentially international reach made me feel like my diagnosis, my future, and my quality of life were not so bleak. 

The digital space has been a source of immense growth for healthcare. With the emergence of digital pills to swallow that run tests for a physician, to telehealth and video visits, to Uber for your primary care doctor, healthcare innovation and technology is changing the face of the system and patient participation. Patients must be engaged in their healthcare. Patients have to demand to be seen as the experts in their own bodies. Wrapping those notions up with technological innovations produces a brand new day for our healthcare system. 

In fact, there are specific benefits to technology and chronic disease. The #mHealth movement poses a plethora of opportunity. For example, HIMMS reports "Chronic disease management poses as a way to utilize mHealth to help patients better manage their health. For example, remote monitoring devices can help patients record their own health status and instantaneously send images or information to physicians. This keeps patients out of the physician’s office, allows time for the physician with other patients or care-related activities, and ultimately helps reduce costs by keeping patients out of the hospital." Because chronic disease management drives such a large portion of healthcare costs, patient engagement and monitoring is key. 

With over 150 million Americans living with chronic illness, technology is more important than ever. Advances are being made every day, but there are a few key innovations that we all can look forward to experiencing. According to the National Health Policy Institute, 11 emerging technologies will change the way that we look at chronic diseases and healthcare. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • Tele-stroke care
  • Virtual visits
  • Mobile asthma management tools
  • In-car telehealth
  • Extended care eVisits
  • Mobile clinician decision support
  • Medication adherence tools
  • Social media promoting health
  • Mobile cardiovascular tools
  • Home telehealth
  • Mobile diabetes management tools

And so many more. The benefits of these tools not only address the emotional health of chronic illness patients, but they also address the physical technicalities, disease management, healthcare costs, and improved quality of care and quality of life. Healthcare technology is using a well-rounded approach of mobile platforms, data analytics, social networking, and telehealth to manage and monitor all types of chronic patients, including at-risk populations and the underserved. 

When talking to other chronic disease patients, there is an overarching agreement. There is a general camaraderie on what we want from technology. We want to feel connected. We want to feel less alone. We want to learn more about our diagnoses. We want to be as informed as possible on our treatments, our medications, the side effects, and our options. A small smattering of insight:

  • "Support from people who GET IT. I would be so, so lost without that."
  • "It's great to be able to reach out, real time."
  • "Having the internet and access to current research around the WORLD completely changed the game for me. And having my genome sequenced. And of course making, and keeping, supportive connections."
  • "Support. Research. Helping others who I know how to help but don't live close to is huge."
  • "Without the ability to message on my smartphone to communicate with doctors and case managers I would be LOST."

What can we expect from the innovation industry? What will healthcare look like with these advances? 

About the author: 
Kristin Coppens is a social media and digital communications professional, a health activist, an ePatient, and a multiple chronic diseases fighter and blogger. You can read more about her chronic illness journey on her blog, Chronically Kristin, or follow her on Twitter.
She will also be joining us this year at ePharma as an official guest blogger sharing insights from the event.
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