Health Startups: Opportunities In Pocket Sized Health Care

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By Dr. Pamela Cipriano (Contributor, Disruptive Women in Healthcare) We use smart phones to manage most of our social life -- calendars, communications, coupons, you name it. Why not health care?

Perhaps you are already taking advantage of some amazing mobile health applications, or wireless monitoring devices that not only take measurements but can also report them to your health care provider or personal health record.

A renowned expert on disruptive innovations, Clayton Christensen ("The Innovator’s Dilemma" and "The Innovator’s Prescription") who has diabetes, revealed in an interview with Health Affairs several years ago*, his methods for using his glucose meter and algorithms, mail order testing, and email communication, allow him to stay on top of his care and progress, rarely needing to go to provider’s office for care. Even though he may be an outlier, more and more people, young and old, are able to benefit from the advances in mobile technologies.

Being accustomed to mobility, consumers are empowered by technology that liberates them from the bureaucracy of inconvenient schedules, poor parking options, laborious waiting, and mysterious fee schedules.

Today, you can receive text messages, voice mail, or email reminders for just about anything from medications, to testing, to health tips, or appointments. Information and help where you want it, when you want it, and how you want it are transforming the relationship between you and your providers.

  • Teens get help with diet and smoking cessation as well as disease management.
  • Elders and their care givers get live follow up and real time transmission of important vital signs through remote patient monitoring that can alert providers to developing problems at home.
  • Ambient assisted living systems that track movement at home, and personal emergency response systems help elders stay at home but alert others when a condition changes over time or in an emergency.

Mobile personal monitoring is getting a boost from other companies who recognize people want to be on the go, and are not held back by the need to monitor or address health needs in traditional ways. In the next several years, Ford Motor company plans to provide “First Assist” emergency health care instruction through its OnStar system. They will provide allergy alerts based on day-to-day location indices of allergens, and glucose level monitoring alerts via dashboard applications.

Future plans also include voice requests for health information and updates, seat sensors to detect electrical heart rhythms/problems, and stress reduction responses. Leveraging existing technologies such as GPS, telecommunications, and internet access is catapulting us into an age of ubiquitous computing where our environment is instantaneously and unobtrusively enabled by computer assisted functions.

Electronic medication reminder boxes and vials already offer services to remind people what to take, and when to take it with flashing lights and compartments that release. Failure to respond on schedule triggers follow up to the consumer and family members. Simple transmission of daily weight and other vital signs is easily performed through a variety of economical products including one scale that will post your weight on Twitter. Edible computer chips are being tested to report proper drug ingestion.

Thousands of cell phone applications provide tools to receive and send health information as data points, documents, and static as well as moving images. With 24/7 expectations, we now have 24/7 access to information and data interactivity. Technology is delivering on the promise to help improve care. It is always on, and fits in our pockets.

*Mark D. Smith. Disruptive Innovation: Can Health Care Learn From Other Industries? A Conversation With Clayton M. Christensen. Health Affairs, 26, no.3 (2007):w288-w295. (published online March 13, 2007; 10.1377/hlthaff.26.3.w288)

This post was originally posted at Disruptive Women in Healthcare.

About the guest blogger: Dr. Pamela Cipriano is a distinguished nursing and hospital administrator. She served as Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Clinical Officer of the University of Virginia Health System. She is focused on making nursing care safer and more efficient through the adoption and implementation of technologies at the point of care. As chair of the American Academy of Nursing’s Workforce Commission, she led a grant funded project to improve workflow processes in acute care nursing environments.