Posts Tagged ‘mHealth’

Two seemingly unrelated events occurred at 8 pm on Wednesday, February 16. Each breaking new ground in information technology.

  1. IBM’s supercomputer Watson handily trumped human champions Ken Jennings  and Brad Rutter in the final episode of Jeopardy‘s three-day “Man vs. Machine”.
  2. AstraZeneca (@AstraZenecaUS) hosted the first ever pharma tweet chat (#rxsaves) on patient assistance programs.

The timing of these milestones is not their only synchronicity. Far more significant is the impact that Watson’s brainpower could have on the central issue of AZ’s chat (and of our entire health care system, for that matter): getting the right health care information to the right people, right when they need it. Watson’s ability to communicate in natural language, while applying 1000’s of algorithms to the content of a million or more books in the blink of an eye, could well be the answer—a prospect not lost on the folks at IBM.

Next stop for Watson is not American Idol. It’s the doctor’s office.

On the heels of Watson’s Jeopardy! success the NY Times reported, “IBM will collaborate with Columbia University and the University of Maryland to create a physician’s assistant service that will allow doctors to query a cybernetic assistant. The company also plans to work with Nuance Communications Inc. to add voice recognition to the physician’s assistant, possibly making the service available in as little as 18 months.”

Wow! Just add a smartphone app and you’ve got a superhighway of medical education straight to the point of care.

Patients need cybernetic assistants, too.

AstraZeneca’s tweet chat opened with a simple enough question: “What is best way to increase awareness of prescription savings programs?” But as the ensuing discussion proved, the answer is far from simple.

Too much disparity in eligibility criteria from state to state, pharma to pharma.

Too many touch points. Should providers be responsible? Or pharmacists? Too little time.

And too few of the really needy and elder populations are within reach of online patient advocates and disease-specific social media, as this infographic from the PEW Internet and American Life Project shows.

However, everyone (soon, I hope!) will have an EHR.

The reasonable use requirements of health care reform have spurred the long overdue adaptation of electronic health records. Why can’t prescription savings resources be tied to these records? Then I could give Watson a ring to find out what’s available for all the drugs I’m taking and find out if I’m eligible. And while he’s at it, maybe he could help me find the best Medicare Part D plan for me? Or that might be a frontier too far.

Heck, we crossed two frontiers in one night. Let’s go for one more!

For social media junkies and pharma followers, there are good reviews of the AstraZeneca #rxsaves tweet chat by John Mack and Wego Health, and a transcript of the entire chat here.

Last week’s ePatient Connections conference in Philadelphia served up a healthy dose of sharing, caring and sometimes daring technologies to empower healthcare consumers. Rather than chronicle the event, which Jane Sarasohn-Kahn and Eileen O’Brien have done so well, I’ve chosen to sum it up with 5 sound-bytes that provide a big picture overview for all stakeholders to follow in engaging, educating and enabling patients and caregivers.

1. “Pervasive is persuasive.” David Rose of MIT and Vitality Glowcaps

For my money, “pervasive is persuasive” should be the mantra of all eHealth initiatives. This brilliantly simple observation encapsulates not only why we should be trying to connect with healthcare consumers through every channel possible, but also how to do it right. David’s point: Put information at the point of decision, where it is most relevant. In our ever more electronically connected lives that could be anywhere and everywhere, from the smart pill bottle in our medicine cabinet to our social networks.

Healthy messaging must be germane to who we are, how we live and what we value, a point echoed throughout the conference, but most notably by keynote speaker Victor Stretcher, founder of HealthMedia.  His 20 years of research on motivating healthy behaviors has yielded this “magic mix”: more relevant messages + less work for the individual = more behavior change.

Tactically, ePatient Connections offered lots of examples of pervasive, relevant and work-saving technology-enabled care. Quintiles’ iGuard medication monitoring service sought engagement with patients at a “critical point in the workflow”, the pharmacy. Pfizer Canada’s Smidge app was designed to promote healthy lifestyle activities in “the downtime between New York City subway stops.” And the popular FitBit device (on backorder until mid-November) goes everywhere you go (even to bed!) to monitor and track progress to your fitness goals.

2.  & 3. “You don’t want compliance. You want the patient to own the experience.” Dr. Danny Sands, Cisco’s Director of Medical Informatics

This should be a no-brainer, but it’s startling nevertheless, because it comes from a healthcare provider who is on the same page as patients. Patient rights advocate, Regina Holliday, put it this way, “We don’t want compliance. We want participation.” Are we beginning to see the breakdown of the barrier between true patient-physician dialogue? I hope so.

As Dr. Sands acknowledged—and Regina’s very moving personal story demonstrated—up to now the medical establishment has been all about hording info, about being the sole authority, even when they don’t have all the answers. But he sees huge power in saying, “I don’t know… Let’s look it up together.”  It’s an intriguing picture: doctor and patient sitting down at the computer together. Will they be visiting your website? I believe there’s huge power in facilitating these conversations.

4 & 5. “Truly advocating for patients is different from marketing to them.” Joe Shields, Director World Wide Innovation at Pfizer

Joe humbly talked about the challenges of his new job at Pfizer, but he certainly understands the ultimate goal, which MS patient and e-patient blogger, Lisa Emrich, put so succinctly, “Stop selling and start supporting.”

Certainly, ePatient Connections offered plenty of insights from patient advocacy groups and patients themselves about the support they need. There was the “compassionate technology” of Sona Mehring’s CaringBridge. The loss of trust when Teva pulled the plug on its popular patient community MSWatch. And the personal struggles with the healthcare system to achieve truly collaborative care, which is in everyone’s best interest, but especially patients.

The take-away for anyone trying to engage healthcare consumers is:

Be pervasive. One social media channel or one killer app is not enough. You have to be everywhere the audience is.

Be relevant. We now have the technology to truly personalize health messages. Make the most of it. “Be a person, not a machine.” (Brooke McMillan, LIVESTRONG) What would you want to know / do / use if you had this disease?

Be a facilitator. Open up and encourage more robust 3-way conversations between doctors, patients and peers.

And be supportive. Target and fill patients’ unmet needs.