It is undeniable that mobile technology and health are very comfortable bed fellows with the introduction of more and more apps and online services on the market to enhance personal health. Whether it is reminders about taking medication, health tips for pregnant mums, appointment reminders, or ‘smart pills’.
A report last November by research2guidance estimated there were more than 17,000 mobile health applications designed for smartphones. It forecast mobile and wireless health care services would expand significantly to reach 500 million mobile users, or about 30% of an estimated 1.4 billion smartphone subscribers worldwide, by 2015.
So why is it that Google chose to wind down their Google Health service recently after being introduced in the US in 2008? The service offered an open platform that allowed people to store and manage their health information, including immunisations, disease history and prescriptions in one place, with access to the records possible via various devices or mobile applications. Google explains that “There has been adoption among certain groups of users like tech-savvy patients and their caregivers, and more recently fitness and wellness enthusiasts. But we haven’t found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people”.
There is an acknowledgement in Clinical Care that patient observations of daily life (ODLs) are key to making decisions about patient care, and giving the patient themselves insight into their own health. However, engagement of patients in monitoring their own health between episodes of care, and using technology to do this, is a challenge for the healthcare sector.
This might come down to simple consumer motivation. Consumers are not interested in providing health information without the ability to also participate in decisions that influence their health. Responding to an article by Marianne Kilbasuk McGee of InformationWeek, “Is 2012 the Year of Online Patients?”, Gil Tidhar recommends that (1) consumers are given the opportunity to access their (online) information and participate in decisions regarding their care; (2) consumers are provided with education to improve Health Literacy – making them better healthcare consumers (without making them doctors); and (3) education and regulation is used to encourage healthcare providers to include consumers in a collaborative care process.
Perhaps if health professionals were to see their patients in this more collaborative vein, by including them in decisions about their health, it would bring about more online patient engagement. In the future, perhaps we can hope to see mobile technology as a catalyst for not just changing patient behaviour, but also Health Professional behaviour.