Trends and fads come and go. When they stick, it’s clear they address a consumer need, whether it’s a service, promise, or hope. Here at The Breakaway Group, A Xerox Company (TBG), we operate within a proven methodology that includes metrics, and it’s exciting to those of us who can’t get enough of good data. Most people find metrics interesting, especially when they understand how it relates to them, and the results are something they can control. Metrics are powerful.
To understand the power of data in shaping behaviors, consider the popularity of the self-monitoring fitness tracker or wearable technology. Even as their accuracy is scrutinized, sales in 2014 are predicted to land somewhere in the $14 billion range.1 Do mobile fitness trackers actually help people change their activity habits? Could doctors actually use the data to help their patients? Can companies be built on the concept of improving health with a wearable device? Not conclusively.2 Does a dedicated athlete need this kind of information? Some think not.3
So what is driving the growth of the fitness tracker market and what are these devices offering that creates millions of dedicated users? The answer is real-time data, personalized goals and feedback, and a sense of control; in other words, empowerment.
In the 70s and 80s, my grandparents spoke about their doctor as though he were infallible. They didn’t doubt, question, or even note what he prescribed, but took his advice and dealt with the outcomes. If healing didn’t progress as planned, my grandmother blamed herself, as though she’d failed him.
Jump ahead a few decades when more emphasis is being placed on collaboration. We expect our physicians to work with us, rather than dictate our treatment decisions.4 Section 3506 of the Affordable Care Act, the Program to Facilitate Shared Decision Making, states that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is “required to establish a program that develops, tests and disseminates certificated patient decision aids.”5 The intent is to provide patients and caregivers educational materials that will help improve communication about treatment options and decisions.6
Patient portals are important tools in helping to build this foundation of shared information. The portals house and track patient health data on web-based platforms, enabling patients and physicians to easily collaborate on the patient’s health management.7 Use of patient portals is a Meaningful Use Stage 2 objective.
The first measure of meeting this objective states that more than half the patients seen during a specified Electronic Health Record reporting period must have online access to their records. The second measure puts the spotlight on the patient and their use of that web-based information. MU Stage 2 requires that more than 5% of a provider’s patients must have viewed, downloaded, or transmitted their information to another provider in order for the provider to qualify for financial incentives from the Federal government.8
Empowered consumers want information immediately, whether it’s a restaurant review, number of steps taken in the last hour, how many calories they’ve burned, or their most recent checkup results. We like to weigh the input, make a decision, and then take action. Learning and information intake, no matter the topic, is expected to happen fast.
Metrics show us where we stand and how far we’ve come, which empowers us to keep going or make a change, and then measure again. We’re in an age of wanting to know but also wanting to know what to do next. The wearable device market has met a very real need of consumers. Whether or not fitness trackers make us healthier, whether or not our doctors know what to do with the information, or if this is information an athlete would really use, these devices can serve the purpose of putting many people in control of their own health, one measurable step at a time.
1 Harrop, D., Das, R., & Chansin G. (2014) . Wearable technology 2014-2024: Technologies, markets, forecasts. Retrieved from http://www.idtechex.com/research/reports/wearable-technology-2014-2024-technologies-markets-forecasts-000379.asp
2 Hixon, T. (2014) . Are health and fitness wearables running out of gas? Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/toddhixon/2014/04/24/are-health-and-fitness-wearables-running-out-of-gas/
3 Real athletes don’t need wearable tech. (2014) . Retrieved from http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-gear/gear-shed/tech-talk/Real-Athletes-Dont-Need-Wearable-Tech.html
4 Chen, P. (2012) . Afraid to speak up at the doctor’s office. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/afraid-to-speak-up-at-the-doctors-office/?_r=0
5 Informed Medical Decisions Foundation. (2011-2014) . Affordable care act. Retrieved from http://www.informedmedicaldecisions.org/shared-decision-making-policy/federal-legislation/affordable-care-act/
6 HealthcareITNews. (2014) . Patient pjortals. Retrieved from http://www.healthcareitnews.com/directory/patient-portals
7 Bajarin, T. (2014) . Where wearable health gadgets are headed. Retrieved from http://time.com/2938202/health-fitness-gadgets/
8 HealthIT.gov. (2014) . Patient ability to electronically view, download & transmit (VDT) health information. Retrieved from http://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/achieve-meaningful-use/core-measures-2/patient-ability-electronically-view-download-transmit-vdt-health-information
Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts. The Breakaway Group is a leader in EHR and Health IT training.