Doctors need to take the reins of the mHealth movement

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

This may come as a shock to some people, but today's physicians don't want to see all that extra data from mobile medical and fitness devices.

It's a "tsunami of stuff that we don’t know what to do with," said Don Kosiak, Jr., MD, executive medical director for the Sioux Fall, S.D.-based Avera Medical Group's eCare program. It's "15 pages of stuff" or "20 pages of garbage" that aren't helping the doctor or the patient.

And that, said the panelists at a Monday morning mHealth Summit Executive Breakfast, is what's plaguing the mHealth movement right now – too much data coming in from too many locations that don't have any effect on the patient-provider relationship, and which may even be having a harmful effect.

In "The World is My Waiting Room," sponsored by mHealth News and Healthcare IT News, the three panelists – all clinical leaders in some of the largest integrated health networks in the country – painted the picture of a healthcare network where the patient chooses how to communicate with providers, and the providers make use of mHealth tools and services to improve that communication.

'Our job is to offer these channels and for the patient to choose which fits them best," said Jeffrey Benabio, MD, a dermatologist and physician director of healthcare transformation for the California-based Kaiser Permanente network. "Sometimes we think that we know what patients want, but we don't know."

To be sure, Kosiak, Benabio and Andrew Watson, MD, a colorectal surgeon and medical director of UPMC's Center for Connected Medicine who moderated the panel discussion, all agreed that mHealth holds great promise for the future of healthcare, which is moving rapidly away from a pay-for-performance system to one that focuses on measurable outcomes.

Watson sees mHealth as a means of reducing unnecessary visits to the doctor's office or hospital and connecting with consumers at home or work – where they spend 95 percent of their lives. Kosiak, whose network encompasses dozens of small hospitals and clinics across a wide swath of the Midwest, says mHealth enables him to bring healthcare to remote locations and reduce travel by both patients and physicians. And Benabio sees mHealth as a means by which the physician can take more control over his business and become a specialist.

All three agreed, though, that the physician – generally reluctant to try new things or change the old way of doing things – needs to step up and embrace mHealth, because consumers are already doing that.

"We need to take a larger leadership role in mHealth," Benabio said.

"We can raise the bar and make this the standard of care for everyone," Kosiak agreed.

To do this, the three panelists said, physicians need to lead the charge in advocating for mHealth tools and services that make their life easier. That involves solutions that give them and their patients the information they need at the point of care, not droves of data that need to be collated and translated before anything meaningful comes out.

"(We're looking for) very powerful tools that allow us to be better clinicians," said Benabio, as well as tools that "capture information to help patients be well and stay well."

A challenging task? Watson doesn't think so.

"We've split the atom, sliced the gene and walked on Tranquility Base. I'm sure we can figure it out," he said.