How far down this path will we be in 12 months? Probably not too far. But we are making progress on five fronts:
Mobile Health. This segment of the industry offers the most promise. It's no exaggeration to describe consumers' and physicians' embrace of mobile health apps, smartphones, and tablets as transformational.
Docs are in love with their iPads, and for good reason. When IT teams were asked "Which mobile computing devices are doctors in your organization using for medical purposes" in InformationWeek Healthcare's 2012 Priorities Survey, 66% cited iPads or other tablets, up from 45% just a year earlier. This love affair continues to develop because tablets give them access to EHR data, drug reference materials, and a host of valuable data that in the past was only available in the office or hospital. That kind of access should improve patient outcomes.
Similarly, consumers are loading all sorts of fitness apps on their phones, while patients with chronic diseases are taking advantage of apps and iPhone attachments that let them measure blood pressure, blood glucose, and much more.
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Roughly half of consumers predict that within the next three years mobile health will improve the convenience (46%), cost (52%), and quality (48%) of their healthcare, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey of consumers, payers, and physicians in both developed and emerging markets around the world.
Whether or not this enthusiasm translates into better health and less need for medical services will depend in part on the "stickiness" of these apps. Unfortunately many consumers fall out of love with their mobile health apps after only a few uses.
Personal health records. Speaking of stickiness, PHRs seem to have none. Until recently few consumers have signed on for standalone PHRs, and I've devoted a fair amount of digital ink to reasons why that's the case. But that will likely change in the next year or so--at least for those consumers who have the most skin in the game, namely patients with chronic, life-threatening disorders.
I suspect so-called "interactive PHRs" will catch on in 2013. These digital tools link personal health records to electronic health records.
It seems Microsoft is placing its bets on this PHR/EHR marriage as well. The company has launched a pilot program with Greenway Medical Technologies that will add clinical data from PrimeSuite, Greenway's electronic health record, to Microsoft's HealthVault platform. The joint effort will let patients create a HealthVault account and access their clinical information from PrimeSuite's PrimePatient online portal, including demographics, allergies, medications, vital signs, social and family history, procedures, labs tests, and patient care plans.