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The Required Shift in How Patients View Wearables

Posted on September 27, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This post is sponsored by Samsung Business. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

We’ve all seen the explosive growth that’s occurred in the wearables market. The most extraordinary part of the wearables explosion is that the majority of wearables growth has been in the healthcare space. The problem we now see in healthcare is that most people don’t look at wearables as a disease management tool as much as they see them as lifestyle tools. This was described really well by Megan Williams on the Samsung Insights blog:

Perhaps the most challenging part of meeting that desire [Physician Access to Patients’ Lives and Health] is the fact that patients mostly view wearables as an aid in lifestyle improvement instead of disease management. The task of helping patients understand that wearables are about much more than weight loss will fall squarely on the shoulders of providers.

Patients have traditionally shown a preference for lifestyle apps including fitness, nutrition and heart rate aids, and have been much slower to adopt disease management tools, even as chronic disease remains a burden on healthcare as a whole. Encouraging the use of a broader range of wearables, digital tools and apps will be a challenge for any provider.

Changing habits and perceptions is always a challenge. However, it’s also a great opportunity.

No one would argue that today’s wearables are more than novelty items that may have some impact on your lifestyle (fitness, nutrition, etc). That’s largely because the initial wearables were designed around those retail areas of the market. It’s much easier to create a retail wearable device than to create a disease management focused healthcare device.

As the healthcare wearables market matures so will patients expectations around the benefits they can receive from those wearables. I think there are two main keys to development of wearables as true healthcare devices: Depth of Tracking and Connection to Providers.

Depth of Tracking
I’ve argued for a while now that all the various fitness trackers were not clinically relevant. I still believe that today, but I also believe that wearables like the various fitness trackers will start tracking us in ways that are clinically relevant. That just takes a lot longer to develop.

Whether it’s new trackers that screen for sleep apnea or ECGs that monitor our heart, we’re seeing more and more wearable devices monitoring data that’s more clinically relevant than the number of steps you’ve taken. This trend will continue. As wearables more deeply track various parts of the human body, the opportunities to understand your health and improve your health will follow along with it. This will provide doctors the impetus to request access to your wearable data.

The deep data these wearables will provide will challenge the tried and true beliefs healthcare holds so dearly today. That can be scary for some, but is also very exciting.

Connection to Providers
While wearables will provide the data, we’ll still want to consult a healthcare provider to understand the data and to create a plan of action based on that data. At least in the foreseeable future, our health will depend on collaboration with healthcare providers as opposed to a replacement of healthcare providers. This will be particularly true as the type of data our wearables collect gets more complicated. Understanding your step chart is quite different than understanding your ECG.

In order to facilitate this collaboration, our wearables will have to be connected to our care providers. Note that I said care providers and not doctors. In some cases it might be our doctor, but in other cases it could be a nurse, care manager, social worker, or some other care provider. I’m hopeful that we eventually reach the point of a true care team that collaborates on our health. That’s a far cry from where most of our healthcare is today, but that is the hope.

If we can solve these two wearable challenges: Deeper Data and Connected Providers, then we’ll be well on our way to changing how patients view wearables. This shift won’t happen over night, but I believe it will happen a lot quicker than most people imagine.

For more content like this, follow Samsung on Insights, Twitter, LinkedIn , YouTube and SlideShare.

The Power of WeChat for Chinese Health Trackers

Posted on March 24, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since CES at the start of this year. It was one of the most impressive and interesting things I saw at CES. However, it requires a real international perspective to understand the impact of the story. Hopefully I can flesh it out for you.

While at CES I ran into a company called Lifesense (All in Chinese). I almost didn’t stop at their booth because their booth was in Chinese, but I did recognize the pictures they had and the guy at the booth came out and said hi. I try to respectful so I stopped and talked for a minute.

At first appearance I just thought they were one of the hundreds of copy cat companies I’d seen all over the Fitness area of CES. They had a fitness tracker, a scale, a blood pressure cuff, etc. I guess in some ways they were/are a copy cat company since none of those things made them special (at least nothing I could see). However, it turned out that there was more than meets the eye and there was a reason their booth and website were in Chinese.

Turns out that Lifesense was only in China. They had no US presence (although, he thought that one day they might). As someone who’s always curious I wondered how well their health tracking products had done in China. He then recounted to me that they were lucky to be major partners with WeChat and so they’d had tremendous success in the Chinese market.

This is where I got most interested. For those not familiar with WeChat, it’s the go to IM/SMS/Facebook Messenger/SnapChat/Kik/Whatsapp/etc app for China. Everyone in China is pretty much on WeChat. Plus, unlike the companies that I just listed WeChat also has a built in commerce platform and engine for running third party apps. It’s amazing to think that an IM platform could be so powerful, but WeChat has shown that it can be. You literally can order Pizza or an Uber from within WeChat.

With that in mind, building a health tracking platform on WeChat solves so many of the challenges that US based fitness tracking applications have going against them. Take for example the experience with Fitbit. You can connect with your friends and “compete” against them to see who takes the most steps. However, it can be a pain to get all of your friends on the Fitbit platform so you can compete. Plus, this doesn’t even take into account that your friend has to have a Fitbit device.

Turns out that since Lifesense has built their Fitness tracking on WeChat, they can already connect you to all your other friends that are tracking their fitness with no work on your part. That feature literally just comes built in with WeChat. That’s so incredibly powerful since the social element to health is so important.

The problem in the US is that we don’t have a WeChat. There are a lot of platforms that are trying to do what WeChat’s done in China in the US, but they still have a long ways to go. Plus, it’s hard to imagine them ever becoming the dominant force that WeChat is in China.

As usual, I think there’s lots that we can learn from other countries. I think that’s the case with simple integrations like WeChat that open up all sorts of easy doors to improving health.

Here are some screenshots of the LifeSense app in WeChat for those that are interested to see how the app looks on top of WeChat:

Is Fitbit a Digital Health Solution?

Posted on January 6, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As I’ve been making the rounds of Digital Health at CES (technically the show officially starts today), I’ve run into an extraordinary amount of digital health sensors and tracking devices. Some of them are me too copycats of the already flooded fitness trackers. Others are doing really incredible stuff around ecg, muscle mass, respiratory, heart rate, and much more.

One conversation that I’ve had multiple times is that Fitbit and Fitness trackers like it really aren’t a digital health solution. This isn’t really said as a knock to Fitbit. Almost always this statement is proceeded by a comment about how Fitbit has done some really great things. However, the question really revolves around whether Fitbit is a healthcare application or whether it’s just a fun consumer device.

There’s no argument that Fitbit has been extremely successful. It’s also created mainstream interest in tracking your health. As a consumer application it’s been a big hit. The numbers don’t lie. However, many would equate what it’s accomplished in healthcare to something like the Wii Fit as opposed to something that impacts clinical care like a medical device. It’s more of a game that provides some health benefits than it is a clinical device. I even heard one person take it as far as to compare it to running shoes. If you did a study, running shoes probably improve the health of many people since it makes it easier to exercise. Does that make it a health solution?

Like I said, I don’t think anyone is arguing that what Fitbit is doing is bad. I also can’t remember Fitbit ever really claiming to influence clinical care. It’s the rest of the world that’s drawing that conclusion for them. Countless are the number of articles that talk about a patient sharing their Fitbit data with their doctor.

In response to those articles doctors have generally responded, why do I care about their Fitbit data? I think the reason doctors react this way is because the Fitbit data is limited and really doesn’t affect the clinical care for most people. Maybe there’s some isolated cases, but for the majority of Americans it wouldn’t change the care they receive.

While this is true for Fitbit, there is a wave of other tracking devices that could (and I believe will) impact clinical care. It’s easy to see how a continuous ecg monitor that’s FDA cleared (ie. Doctors trust the data) could impact clinical care. This is actually true clinical data that doctors will care about seeing.

At this point I think it’s true that majority of doctors don’t want to get your Fitbit data. It’s not clinically relevant. However, that’s going to change rapidly as health sensors continue to evolve. Maybe Fitbit will find some clinical relevancy in the data they produce. If not, a wide variety of other vendors are going to create clinically relevant data that doctors will not only want in their EHR, but they’re going to demand it.

The only question I have now is, should we be building the highways for that data now so that we can easily turn on these new sources of clinically relevant data?

Side Note: I’ll be doing a Digital Health video blab from CES 2016 if you’d like to join.

The “Smart EMR” Differentiator

Posted on October 25, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As I’ve been able to talk to more and more EMR companies I’ve been trying to figure out a way to differentiate the various EHR software. In fact, when I meet with EHR software companies I suggest that instead of them showing me a full demo of their EHR software, I ask them to show me the feature(s) that set their EHR apart from the other 300+ EHR companies out there. I must admit that it’s always interesting to see what they show me. Sometimes because what they show me isn’t that interesting or different. Many of my EMR company specific posts come from these experiences.

Today at MGMA as I went from one EHR company to another I started to get an idea for what might be the future differentiation between EHR companies. I’m calling it: “Smart EMR.”

You can be sure that I’ll be writing about my thoughts on Smart EMR software many more times in the future. However, the basic idea is that far too many EHR software are just basic translations from paper to electronic. Sure, some of them do a pretty good job of capturing the data in granular data elements (something not possible on paper), but that’s far from my idea of what a future Smart EMR software will need to accomplish.

I’m sure that many of those that are reading this post immediately started to think about the idea of clinical decision support. Certainly clinical decision support will be one important element of a Smart EMR, but I think that’s barely even the beginning of how a Smart EMR will need to work in the future. However, clinical decision support as it’s been described to date focuses far too much on how a clinician’s discretely entered data elements can support the care they provide. That’s far too narrow of a view of how an EMR will improve the patient-doctor interaction.

Without going into all the detail, EHR software is going to have to learn to accept and process a number of interesting and external data sources. One example could be all the data that a patient has in the PHR. Another could be patient data that was collected using personal various medical devices like a blood pressure cuff, an EKG, and blood glucose meters. Not to mention more consumer centric data devices and apps such as RunKeeper, Fitbit, sleep tracking, mood tracking, etc etc etc.

Another example of an external source could be access to some community health data repository. Why shouldn’t community trends in healthcare be part of the patient care process? None of this is far reaching since we’re collecting this data today and it will become more and more mainstream over time. Something we can’t do today, but likely will in the future is things like genomics. Imagine how personalized healthcare will change when an EHR will need to know and be able to process your genome in order to provide proper care.

I don’t claim to know all the sources, but I think that gives you a flavor of what a Smart EMR will have to process in the future. I’ll be interested to see which EHR software companies see this change and are able to execute on it. Many of the current innovations in EHR have been pretty academic. The Smart EMR I describe above will be much more complicated and require some specific skills and resources to do it right.

Fitbit Privacy or Lack Thereof – Exposing Sexual Activity of Its Users

Posted on September 13, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Well, privacy rears its ugly head in healthcare again. I don’t want to treat a person’s privacy lightly, but I must admit that I kind of had to laugh at the breach I’m about to tell you about. I think you’ll see why.

I first read about this privacy breach on this Techcrunch article (They originally found it on nextWeb). Here’s a quote from the Techcrunch article:

Yikes. Users of fitness and calorie tracker Fitbit may need to be more careful when creating a profile on the site. The sexual activity of many of the users of the company’s tracker and online platform can be found in Google Search results, meaning that these users’ profiles are public and searchable.

I’ve been a big fan of Fitbit and other devices like that which are trying to track a person’s health and fitness. I think there’s a real market for these devices, but this is a pretty ugly misstep for Fitbit. Although, a search for sexual activity and FitBit isn’t returning results any more. Here’s the Fitbit blog post which details the steps they’ve taken to secure their users profiles. Seems like a reasonable and a smart response to the privacy issue.

Before I go any farther, we should be clear that this isn’t a HIPAA violation. The patient put their information online and agreed to have that information out there. We could argue how much they really agreed to have their profile public, but I’m quite sure that Fitbit would be fine in a HIPAA lawsuit. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not taking the hit for poor decisions.

What can future healthcare app and device companies learn from the Privacy issues at Fitbit?

1. Default healthcare profiles to private. Allow the user to opt in to make it public. Some might want it public, but no company should assume it should be public. This isn’t Facebook.

2. Consider more granular privacy controls. I may want part of my profile public, but part private (ie. sexual activity in a fitness application).

3. Be aware of what you allow search engines to index. There’s a whole category of hackers called Google Hackers. They use Google to find sensitive information like the story above. It’s amazing the power of Google hacking.

Some suggestions to e-patients that put their health data online:

1. Be careful about what information you’re putting online.

2. Check out where the information you put online will be available. Is it private? Is it public? Is it partially public? Can search engines see it?

There’s little doubt that more and more healthcare information is going to be put online by patients. We’re going to see more and more privacy issues like the one mentioned above. This incident will do little to deter this trend. However, hopefully it can serve as a learning experience for Fitbit and other healthcare companies that are entering this new world of online health information.

Expanding the Healthy Patient – Doctor Relationship

Posted on August 9, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Patient Doctor Relationship
It seems like this topic keeps coming up in my online and social media reading. Basically, the discussion usually centers around the role the patient plays in healthcare. Many people like to discuss what has been called the ePatient. I instead want to talk about the motivations of patients and their ability to influence the healthcare system.

Patients in healthcare are unlike “customers” in many other industries. I can’t think of a single patient that wants to go and see a doctor. Ok, maybe they like the doctor and they want to get whatever’s ailing them fixed, but to a person I’m sure we’d say that going to the doctor is the last place we want to be. It’s not like going shopping for a new pair of shoes. There’s nothing you get to take home from the doctor. Well, at least nothing that you really want to take home.

Plus, healthcare is an interesting thing, because often it’s not clear if you should go to the doctor or not. If my A/C is broken, then it’s quite clear that I need to call an A/C repairman. Seeing a doctor is quite different since it’s a fine line between when you need to go and see the doctor versus when your body will heal on its own. I think we’ve all hated the doctor visit where they check you out and basically say there’s nothing they can do for you. Well, other than send you the bill for your visit. I guess that’s the cost of the peace of mind that you get from the visit (I know I’ve done that with my kids a few times).

Please don’t take this as me knocking doctors or the healthcare profession. They provide an absolutely essential and critical role in our lives. Without great doctors many of us wouldn’t be here today. My point in this post is that the patient doctor relationship is quite different than the customer business relationship that we’re use to seeing.

Online Patient Portals
Take for example the online patient portal. Many people love to go on Amazon.com (or insert your preferred shopping site) and browse through all the various things they could buy. We all know people who spend hours shopping. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say that they wanted to spend hours browsing through their patient portal. You know, someone who just couldn’t wait to see what great healthcare services their doctor could provide them.

The only partial exception to the above reasoning is possibly the chronic patient. If I’m a diabetic patient, then I am going to have an ongoing dialogue with my care provider and the services they provide. I’m going to be interested in monitoring and tracking my care in collaboration with the treatments that my doctor provides.

Is there a reason why we don’t want this kind of interaction for our general healthcare?

Regular Online Interaction with Doctors
Why shouldn’t I go online on a regular basis so that my doctor can assist me in total wellness even when I’m a healthy patient? The difference here of course lies in doctors treating symptoms and illness as opposed to a very different form of care: wellness. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve seen any doctors who treat healthy patients. Sure, some doctors do provide some pro-active wellness information during a sick visit to the doctor. Regular physicals are the closest we come to doctors treating healthy patients, but how many health people get those? It feels counter intuitive that we would go and see a doctor when we’re healthy or appear to be healthy. However, maybe that’s the shift our healthcare system needs.

Reimbursement Model Challenge
One real challenge with what I just described is the reimbursement model we have in healthcare. We’ve incentivized treatment of sickness and illness. We haven’t (yet?) incentivized treatment of healthy patients and promotion of wellness. This sounds a bit like the ACO discussion that’s become so popular these days. I’ll be interested to see how these incentives play out. Word on the street is the train has left the building and reimbursement is going to be tied to healthcare outcomes in the future.

Healthy Patient Motivation
Unfortunately, another major challenge I see is that healthy patients aren’t really motivated by wellness initiatives. I’m sure that there are people that understand this phenomenon a lot better than I. Although, I think it’s abundantly illustrated when you talk to someone who’s getting older and starting to lose their health.

It seems particularly poignant for highly successful people that start to get older. How many times have we heard during Oprah or a Barbara Walters interview someone talk about being willing to give up all their riches and fame to just have their health (and they often throw family in there too)? All the time! The problem is that it takes old age or some other health incident for people to make healthy living and wellness an important part of their life. Which begs the question of whether even a change in the reimbursement model for healthcare will get unmotivated people to visit their doctors and be “treated” even when they’re a healthy patient.

Gamification of Healthcare
One idea that I find incredibly intriguing is the idea of gamification of healthcare and wellness. The basic concept behind gamification is to create incentives for people to do the behaviors you want them to do. I believe Foursquare was one of the first applications to do this. They would give you electronic badges and crown you as mayor as you did certain things on their mobile app. It was (and still is) amazing to see what people will do for a little electronic badge and the electronic title of mayor (Turns out this works in the offline world as well. There’s a reason boy scouts give out badges, beads and pins.). The question is how can we apply rewards systems to incentivize healthy behavior and wellness?

To be completely honest, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone crack the gamification code in healthcare. Although, I think the concept is just beginning. I predict in the next couple years that we’re going to see some amazing mobile and web applications that really drastically impact our motivation to healthy living.

The closest I’ve seen so far has been something like the Nike+ device and website. It’s a simple device that tracks your running habits either in a watch, iPod or even in your shoe. Then, that device uploads your running data to a website where you can create and track your running progress. It also provides a social experience, but that’s a topic for another day.

I actually find these tracking device/website combinations (see the FitBit and DigiFit as other examples) to be some of the most interesting things happening when it comes to pro active treating of healthy patients. A while back I predicted a whole plethora of medical tracking devices are going to hit the market. This is happening and will continue for many years to come. I heard one guy interviewed who talked about one day (many years from now) having little mini processors attached to every nerve or blood cell in our body. Ok, that’s kind of creepy to think about, but personal monitoring of our body is a burgeoning field in healthcare.

Crunching All the Personal Healthcare Device Data
The question once we’re monitoring all of these various vital signs and health information is what are we going to do with that information. Is it reasonable to think that we’ll be able to use computers to crunch through all the data and provide a self service analysis of all the data collected? Yes, Watson did some amazing things on Jeopardy, but I think we’re far away from the day when this type of self service crunching of all the medical data we collect will be possible.

Yes, that means we’re still going to need doctors and other healthcare professionals who help us analyze the data that we’re collecting and dealing with the health issues that are related to that data. In fact, I predict a whole new breed of doctor will come together that will be specialized at analyzing this data and treating even the healthy patients.

Future Healthy Patient Doctor Relationship
This all comes full circle when you go back to the start of this discussion: the doctor patient relationship. How are doctors going to see all this health information we’re collecting? Where are we going to have these healthy patient interactions with doctors? I predict that it will be through patient portals that are connected to a physician’s EHR.

I and every blogger I’ve ever known has been a stats junkie. We’re addicted to checking our stats. There’s no reason we wouldn’t be just as addicted to checking our health stats on a patient portal. The problem is that the patient portals I’ve seen aren’t there yet. Plus, most doctors aren’t yet ready for this type of healthy patient interaction around such a large set of data. Although, I predict we’ll get there and it will change the doctor patient relationship forever.