The types of data and the breadth of that data that we are collecting are increasing from both medical and nonmedical devices. I was recently working with some doctors to give patients devices in which they could input their own observations and pain scores, but I realized that there was no way to actually get our EMR to understand that data. So I had to create an interim solution for the problem. Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, such integrations will be standardized and commonplace.
When Worlds Collide
In healthcare, we are obliged to ensure clinical safety when deploying apps and devices. The leisure industry is driven by consumers and by lifestyle; they base decisions not on clinical safety, but on reviews and feedback from social media and consumer testing. Consumer tech and health tech move at very different paces.
But at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, quite a lot of the narrative was around health and wellness devices. The consumer and medical industries are two very different worlds, but they are coming together. For example, the Apple Watch series 4 has been approved with features like fall detection, an ECG app, and a medical ID.
We need to start deciding whether to accept what some call lifestyle data, which comes from patients. While we may not give it the same weight as clinical data, could such information really help us paint a broad picture of a patient’s lifestyle? We’re at the beginning of a journey to investigate how these processes might work.
We can learn things about our own behavior, both as healthcare workers and consumers, and that information will shape how we take the journey. But at this point, there is a huge opportunity to start looking at the different types of data, how they can be used, and the value they offer.
Using Consumer Data
We may have an opportunity as industries to agree on certain categorizations of data, and that will allow people to self-monitor and manage wellness before they get into a clinical setting.
I have done quite a bit of work with different consumer tech companies, such as Fitbit and Amazon, and one area that I’ve explored is healthcare advice.
When you go into a clinic, you get a leaflet explaining your condition and its treatment. You probably put in it the trash or lose it (we kill a lot of trees by handing out leaflets). But as we develop things like Alexa Skills and other capabilities with interactive voice-recognition devices, we can increasingly put good information in people’s homes that can be updated in real time.
We can do things that don’t cause too much trouble. People can put basic information into various modes and delightful formats; they can ask Alexa about the side effects of a medication or whether a blood pressure reading is within a safe range. We can help people understand their conditions a little better. That is a possible first step for consumer tech.
Eventually, we could start sending people public health messages via consumer tech. People could be nudged to exercise more or to make healthy eating choices based on what they choose to share from their lifestyle data.
From Collision to Cooperation
Events like the Consumer Electronics Show will start to showcase more health tech, and HIMSS and other big health tech events will probably start to showcase more consumer tech.
As the onus for keeping people healthy and reducing the cost of their care is put back on providers, I think that more and more healthcare organizations will be looking at novel and innovative ways to actually prevent ill health and reduce the escalation of conditions. The only logical conclusion is to use consumer tech in the patients’ home or place of work.
There are real clinical implications with wearables and other devices, and that is where industries will have to work together. I believe KLAS is becoming a facilitator of conversations between the medical and consumer tech industries, and can create a space in which those ecosystems can combine and work together for mutual benefit.
If we don’t get this cooperation right, we may use the data improperly (or not at all) — or worse, overload clinicians with too much data.
On this journey, industries need to work together iteratively to ensure that everyone is benefiting. Like interoperability and population health, this is a new horizon in which we need to jointly understand how we can actually work with our populations, and the technology people choose to buy to actually improve their health and clinicians’ lives.
This piece was written by Rachel Dunscombe, CEO of NHS Digital Academy, and is the Global Lead for KLAS’ Arch Collaborative. Most recently, she was CIO at Salford Royal Group in the U.K., where she still serves as Strategic Digital Advisor.
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