Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Healthcare’s Digital Pioneers

A distinguished panel of health technology pioneers at the Milken Institute Global Conference gathered to discuss the digital revolution in healthcare and agreed that, with the right drivers, mobile health tools could help close the gap between patients and providers.

Painting a picture of what a physician’s visit might looks like in 10 years, panelists agreed that it will be patient-centric and patient-driven, a partnership between patient and provider, and fueled by data captured in real time.

“What’s missing right now,” said Frank Moss, former director of the MIT media lab, “is that people have to understand the power they have, and be engaged in unleashing the creative potential of technologies that speak to their interests and needs.” He described it as a “cognitive apprenticeship” where the doctor becomes the mentor and the patient the apprentice.

Eric Topol, cardiologist and director of Scripps Translational Science Institute, showed a few mobile technologies that are now available to better improve patient care, including a device that captures heartbeat patterns and emails them to your doctor, and a glucose monitor attachment to your smartphone. “We have to get over the reimbursement-centric, doctor-knows-best paternalism, and introduce some creative destruction into the healthcare system,” he said.

John Dwyer, chairman of Telcare, agreed that broad adoption of these tools will depend greatly on incentives. “It’s all about the data – providing for patients and caregivers in the cloud,” he said. “People should be able to get their data when they want it, not be limited because of the few, or no, reimbursement options for doctors to manage their patients’ health remotely.” Dwyer also pointed out that the financial industry invests twice as fast and twice as much in technology as healthcare does, and that medicine could learn a lot from their model. “Information is powerful, but the wallet plus information is a winner – market takers will become market makers.”

Kate Black, staff counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, reminded the group that even with all the potential for good, if we can’t build trust among patients within the digital ecosystem, we may not be able to realize the full range of possibilities for improved health. “We need a policy framework that protects privacy and individuals, while allowing data that needs to flow, to flow to the right places at the right time.”

Moderator Cecilia Arradaza asked the group if they thought increased access to health information would create a “generation of hypo – or ‘cyber-chondriacs,’” but Topol and others agreed that while we’ll never collectively get over some of the fears associated with our health, having access to your own personal health information will be far more empowering than distracting.

View the video to see some of the latest tools discussed.

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