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Smart Phones and Smarter Patients

Dr. Simon Lewis has been a Primary Care Physician (PCP) at a mid-sized hospital for several years now. One of his younger patients recently walked in and declared that he is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Of course, he was referring to the case of Seasonal Depression, wherein the individual’s mood matches the season – sunny in the summer and gloomy in the winter.

The young gentleman was convinced of his condition. After all, the season was changing and the health-app on his smartphone alerted about loss of appetite, and an article on the internet matched these two symptoms to Seasonal Depression. The article even said that about 13-18% of Americans suffer from SAD. Such instances are more frequent than people realize.

Dr. Simon and his PCP colleagues act as the face of the healthcare system for most of the patients. They are responsible for promoting wellness, prevent diseases, counseling, patient education, diagnosis, and coordinate any other specialist care that the patient may need.

Despite the misdiagnosis, Dr. Simon is intrigued with the proactiveness of his patients. He wants to leverage this proactiveness and the affinity to smartphones among his patients for effective care management. The opportunities are beginning to reveal themselves.

Most smartphones these days are equipped with accelerometer and gyroscope sensors. In addition, smartphone-compatible medical grade devices such as glucometers, ECG devices, blood pressure monitors and even ultrasound are available in the market. The influx of such technology has revolutionized how patients today can manage their health within the comforts of their home to –  

  • Monitor their health remotely (periodically/frequently visit a healthcare center)
  • Keep a log and securely share the data with PCP/hospitals

This development and the opportunities it presents are so enticing that, even smartphone manufacturers are actively promoting the use-case of managing health at home. 

For example, Apple’s iOS 8 features HealthKit – a central repository of user’s health/fitness data. HealthKit was built after a two-year collaborative endeavor between Apple and Mayo Clinics. Furthermore, patients’ health records will be made available on iPhones, enabling users to view important data such as health conditions, medications, lab results, immunizations, and clinical vitals directly in the health app. So far, over 60 healthcare institutions (hospitals & clinics) across USA (view the full list here) have partnered with Apple for this initiative.

Google is exploring the application of Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence over the data accessible through Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard/protocol. FHIR was developed to simplify exchange of clinical data in a consistent, hierarchical and extensible container format, regardless of the health system. Goal of Google’s initiative is of course, clinical predictions; to leverage vast amount of data and predict outcomes.

While such ambitious projects may take time to stabilize and become mainstream, there are is plethora of consumer outreach use-cases that providers can pursue today via patient’s smartphones. The mandate seems to be clear – Reinvent the stack of healthcare services & touchpoints to better align with the patients’ updated lifestyle and choice of engagement.

In our next blog, we will explore popular use-cases (delivered through smartphone and cloud technologies) that are revolutionizing population & patient care management.


AUTHOR: Karthik NS

Karthik is a Healthcare IT enthusiast with 12 years of work experience. He works as an Enterprise Business Analyst at EVRY India.