Family physicians association offers to help fast-track patient-facing digital health

By Brian Dolan

physician ipadAt CES15, the big consumer electronics show in Las Vegas this week, a panel session hosted by Family Medicine for America's Health shared recent survey data collected from 94 physician members of the American Academy of Family Physicians. The group made clear that the survey findings were "not scientific" and only intended to get "a snapshot of members' experience and perceptions".

Regardless, it's encouraging that more medical associations are starting to have these kinds of discussions with their members.

Four in ten of the family physicians surveyed said they used consumer health apps at the point of care with their patients. Of those, 70 percent said they recommend preventative or healthy lifestyle apps to their patients. A third of the physicians who use apps recommend education and post-diagnosis app to their patients. Some 11 percent of the physicians surveyed said they use consumer apps to help with patient compliance and 10 percent said they use "self-diagnosis" apps with their patients. 

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Forty-percent of those surveyed also said they had reservations about recommending consumer health apps to patients over concerns of their medical rigor. About 37 percent said they were concerned about suggesting them to patients because they weren't clear if apps were proven effective. Other worries about recommending apps noted by those physicians surveyed: security and privacy of health information (20 percent); transparency and awareness of how data entered into app is used (16 percent); cost associated with app for patient (16 percent); and lack of access to data to help with clinical decisions and outcomes (13 percent).

“We are here [at CES15] as part of a broader effort to improve our health care system and the health of all Americans,” Dr. Glen Stream, the chairman of Family Medicine for America’s Health, said in a statement. “We believe consumer health technologies — apps, wearables, self-diagnosis tools — have the potential to strengthen the patient-physician connection and improve health outcomes. We are here to talk about where we see opportunity and need, and how we, working together with technology companies, can overcome the barriers that are keeping us from fully leveraging the power of consumer technology in primary care.”