This past weekend, I explored the health section on my smart-phone and saw the log of my heart rate from the smartwatch on my wrist. Pulse readings from months past glowed warmly in easy-to-read and interactive graphs. The heart rate information captured by the watch was easy to understand and is a clear opportunity for medical providers to help patients. Wearable smart-watches connected to smartphones are the tip of the technological iceberg for patient monitoring. Access to health data solves an age-old problem; getting patients to follow doctors’ orders. Wearable devices, connected monitors, and smartphone health apps used in combination with telehealth can help us to improve the health of our patients by enhancing patient engagement. The wave of new monitoring tools means significant opportunity for engaging people in their health. Access to information is empowering and the proliferation of new ways to see, understand, communicate and monitor health-related data has really opened new doors for patients, as well as for their physicians.
Behavior change is at the core of improving health outcomes. Diet habits, medication adherence, exercise, and patient activation are examples of the opportunities for behavior change which have already happened. The growing array of options for monitoring health comes at a time when doctors and healthcare delivery systems are also changing how they do business. In value-based contracting, the management of health and chronic disease is now more about what happens between visits. Pay for performance models incentivize physicians based on patient outcomes, regardless of visit status. Because healthcare delivery is evolving, it is time to understand and take advantage of the options available to help people take ownership of their health outcomes.
At the heart of the proliferation of health monitoring is the smartphone. Mobile internet technology, mainly smartphone apps are the medium by which patients become informed about their health. Apps take advantage of the ubiquitous internet connectivity that we all now enjoy and have broad public appeal. Apps that track, remind and monitor mindfulness, chronic disease control, exercise, diet, tobacco cessation, substance abuse assistance, telehealth, women’s health, sleep, pregnancy, and early childhood development are a few of the prominently represented areas of development. The challenge for providers is to understand the apps their patients are using, take advantage of patient engagement tools, and work out how to best integrate the data in the apps in their practice. For instance, the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone is developing a co-branded app for tracking pregnancy because the data on downloads of apps among pregnant women is compelling. We want our patients to benefit from our clinical protocols and services early in their pregnancy.