Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

The problem with transformative technologies in medicine

http://www.healthxchange.com.sg/healthyliving/HealthatWork/Pages/top-5-health-apps-to-download.aspx

Yesterday I reflagged an item about the  Free UMSkinCheck Mobile App.
While these self check apps are wonderful consumer and patient tools, they are not without “problems”.
This KevinMD.com post outlines health app use challenges as folks gathering data without knowing what to do with and reimbursement issues (physician consultations outside of the office).

Article ends with statement “Until our system puts more value on avoiding unnecessary treatment and keeping people well we will be stuck in this struggle between patients who want to avoid seeing the doctor and doctors who can’t afford to let patients do that.”.

The problem with transformative technologies in medicine

by (KevinMD.com post, 17 July 2012)

Eric Topol wrote a post on The Health Care Blog where he looks to a future enabled by emerging technology: “Just as the little mobile wireless devices radically transformed our day-to-day lives, so will such devices have a seismic impact on the future of health care. It’s already taking off at a pace that parallels the explosion of another unanticipated digital force — social networks….

large number, if not the majority, of ear infections are undiagnosed and clear on their own at home without intervention.  Now add to this a technology which gives us the ability to see all of those undiagnosed ear infections, and we have to muster even more willpower to resist the urge to treat them all.  This is the same problem as we have encountered with PSA testing: be careful gathering data you don’t know how to handle.

But even without considering this important objection to improved data-gathering, there is another problem which stands in the way of this type of technology: reimbursement.  It sounds great to enable people to avoid visits to the doctor’s office by having tools that previously were only accessible at an office visit.  It sounds like a very good way to save money and wasted time spent in waiting rooms with outdated magazines.  But this technology presumes that doctors will be willing to act on this information without seeing the patient in the office.  It presumes we will be willing to offer free care.  If the time I spend sifting through patient-collected data rises exponentially, the payment I get for that time cannot remain at the present level: zero.

If our goal (as it should be) is to spend less money on unnecessary care, we will get to it much faster if we somehow give proper incentive.  Our encounter-based payment system stands in the way of any progress in this area.  The only way most of us get paid is to see people and deal with problems.  This makes doctors reluctant to offer any care outside of this setting, and puts undue pressure on intervention (to justify the encounter to the payors).  Until our system puts more value on avoiding unnecessary treatment and keeping people well we will be stuck in this struggle between patients who want to avoid seeing the doctor and doctors who can’t afford to let patients do that….

What is significant about the finding cited above is that patients at least get it.  They understand the value of a having a relationship with a knowledgeable physician or similar health care provider.  In spite of, and for some, because of the plethora of health information outlets on the web people want to know that they always have access to your family doc when the chips are down.”

“Here’s what I mean…based upon some 20+ years working in health care:

From the get go…going back to Hippocrates…health and health care delivery has been about the relationships between people starting with the  physician-patient.relationship.

The most important diagnostic tool a physician has at their disposal is not a smart phone…but their ability to talk with and observe  patients verbal and non-verbal behavior.

 “Talk” is not only how physicians diagnose problems and recommend the appropriate treatments…talk is also how patients are able to engage in the health care.  Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of talk (and touch) during the medical exam is the therapeutic benefits patients derive from being able to express heart-felt fears and concerns to someone who hopefully cares.”

July 18, 2012 - Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , ,

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