February 22, 2012

Mobile Technology and Healthcare Looking Ahead...

Mobile Health, or “mHealth”, offers benefits throughout the healthcare industry. For clinicians, mHealth is a method to remotely monitor a patient’s health and improve the quality care rendered. For patients, mHealth provides a way to monitor their own health more easily and reduces the cost of care by decreasing the amount of time spend at a doctor’s office or hospital. For payers, it is a way to determine what type of support they need to offer their members.
While the advantages of mHealth technologies are hard to ignore, these technologies also produce a new set of privacy concerns. Because mHealth increases the amount of data collected (think of a glucose test versus a glucose test every two minutes), the amount of data subject to a privacy breach is alarming. Since the majority of mHealth technologies require that the captured information be stored in some type of electronic medical record (EMR) or personal health record (PHR), it is reasonable to be concerned about security and privacy.
According to the National Committee for Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS), an advisory committee to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “privacy is an individual’s right to control the acquisition, uses, or disclosures of his or her identifiable health data.” Security is defined as the “physical, technological, or administrative safeguards or tools used to protect identifiable health data from unwarranted access or disclosure”. So the question is – can mobile devices such as patient-centered devices, clinician communication devices, medical equipment, telemedicine devices and inventory devices maintain patient privacy and securely manage patient data? If so, then why all the concern? If not, then do the benefits outweigh the risks and are their measures that can be taken to increase security and minimize privacy concerns?
In my humble opinion the technology is out there to both serve the public and their privacy concerns. Technology is moving exponentially. By looking at the last few years, we can see how technology has helped our lives in other aspects. Why not on the healthcare frontier where we need the most help. For example the site Healthtap.com has grown from 5,000 to 10,000 US physicians in just 4 months answering people's medical questions for free. With this rapid change in technology, we are really at a paradigm moment of true change. I'm committed to excellence in my patients' care and therefore want to give them the best ways to access me as their concierge physician. Healthtap.com and other emerging technologies like Twitter are already bridging the gap.