Among the many technological changes occurring in healthcare, consumer technology is beginning to change how patients use primary and specialty care.
In an age when health becomes increasingly commoditized, the popularity of personal healthcare devices presents an opportunity for patient care to leave the office and follow patients along throughout their busy lifestyles.
Now, more data and a more accurate understanding of patient health and behavior is available, often in real-time.
With these devices, patients are bringing along health tests wherever they go. Without in-office tests, patients can continuously monitor their sleep cycles, blood pressure, physical activity, and more. Implantable and wearable devices are becoming a popular way to become more aware of blood pressure, exercise, activity levels, and even blood sugar levels. ¹
For healthcare practices, these trends mean more accessible information and more health-savvy patients. Of course, more technology also means a greater need for education as more people begin paying attention to their health data and begin trying to interpret that information.
Engaging consumer health tech in your practice
Patients who use health technologies to help them improve their health present an opportunity for your clinic. You can engage your patients in health-improving behavior modifications and provide them with encouragement by teaching them to track their own health metrics.
If your patients struggle to lose weight, for example, a wearable tracking calorie usage, exercise, and food logging can help them understand which daily changes contribute to the most to their goals. ¹
You can also encourage your patients to use positive reinforcement by establishing small competitions and rewards for patients who meet their goals. Whatever technology they use, see if you can help them understand more about how it works and the best way to use it to improve their health.¹
Self-diagnosis in the wearable age
If more patients know basic information about their health, they can make more informed decisions. Most patients are not healthcare professionals, though, so they need your guidance in order to interpret all of the new data they now have access to.
This represents an opportunity for you to provide education and advice on how to use wearables and consumer health technology. While these new tools can boost patients’ interest in and engage with their healthcare, they can also be misused and misinterpreted.
Some patients may attempt to self-diagnose or may simply believe their data demonstrates good health when something is actually very wrong. ²
Wearables can never replace doctors or DCs, or at least not for the foreseeable future. Patients who use health technology to replace primary care appointments or validate their beliefs about their health status may be vulnerable to making mistakes that can cost them their good health.
Even if patients interpret the data correctly, the information itself could be inaccurate. Consumer wearable devices are not always as accurate as medical-grade instruments. If your patients claim to discover something about their health using wearable technology, ask them for more information.
If your patient claims they are sick and can prove it with their wearable, ask them how they arrived at their conclusions. Let them know that you are happy to help them become more involved in their care, so you plan to listen to their concerns and, as necessary, examine them or refer them for additional testing.²
The future of wearable and implantable tech
In the future, more wearables and implantable technology will likely enter the market. Monitoring health outside the healthcare practice will probably grow in popularity and become an increasingly common part of how healthcare is provided.
Along the way, you can use this as an opportunity to help patients understand how their bodies work and how to stay healthy.
¹Campbell, K. “Fitbit in healthcare: Is more data better?” KevinMD Blog. http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2014/07/fitbit-health-care-data-better.html. Published: July 2014. Accessed: December 2016.
2.Wang, S. “Fitbit’s Move Into Medical Gadgets Risks Attracting FDA Scrutiny.” Bloomberg Technology. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-15/fitbit-s-move-into-medical-gadgets-risks-attracting-fda-scrutiny. Published: April 2014. Accessed: December 2016.