Bill Spooner comments on how mHealth is shaping the industry

12/5/2012

It’s fun to imagine how we will manage our health and receive health care services five and 10 years from now. This article reflects many of the forces that will shape the coming generations of health care delivery: technology innovation, consumer engagement and payor/provider relationships. Each brings great opportunities and great challenges.

New mobile applications or devices are announced almost weekly, enabling connectivity and data transfer among patient, provider and payor. Physiological readings can be transmitted real time to the care center for ongoing monitoring. Using the favorite smartphone, patients can access “Yelp for health care” to find the nearest providers most qualified to treat their symptoms. Each of these innovations brings the potential to drastically change how care is delivered. We providers enjoy evaluating the several products brought to us. Many more are evaluated than attain commercial success.

The National eHealth Collaborative survey reported strong support among health care and advocacy organizations for patient engagement, for various reasons related to quality, service and cost. We have less evidence of patient demand, although utilization is healthy for the emerging web portals providing patients with limited access to their health information and rudimentary service transactions such as appointment scheduling, secure e-mail and prescription renewal. Devices that directly capture patient health information are emerging faster than our ability to import the data, but the EHR and tools vendors are working quickly to make this a reality.

Most intriguing is the competition for the patient relationship. As providers have assumed much of the insurance risk, they increasingly question the role of the insurance plan that has historically held that risk. Some have formed their own insurance arms. Effectively obviating such a threat, at least one insurer has acquired medical groups, hoping to duplicate the Kaiser model. Others are using technology to effectively disintermediate the traditional health system or medical group in coordinating the patient’s care. The “Yelp for health care” tool facilitates bypassing the health system in favor of the best available provider match irrespective of system or group affiliation.

This IT-enabled business innovation suggests a much greater change in our delivery models than does the technology itself. Enjoy the ride!

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