Apple Watch Will Boost Interest in Personal Health Records

Posted Thursday, September 11, 2014 in Online, Mobile & IT by Patricia Seybold

I believe that Steve Jobs would be proud of the job his team did in rolling out the Apple Watch (although I’m sure he would have demanded more!). It’s bittersweet that Steve didn’t live to see the unveiling of a wearable device with built-in sensors to help people improve their fitness and monitor their health.Apple Watch App

I was also reminded of my late father when I saw the Apple Watch announcement. My dad, John Seybold, was also a true technology visionary. He participated in, and helped to catalyze, the digitization of everything. My father was very outspoken about his need to have, maintain, and control his digital health records, as Alzheimer’s disease began to erode his memory. My Dad’s description of what’s needed in a Personal Health Record application or platform, which he articulated 16 years ago, is still a great starting point to inform the “Minimal Viable Product” specifications for personal health data platforms, like AppleHealth or Microsoft HealthVault, or Google Fit.

Baby Boomers are becoming health and fitness fanatics. This preoccupation with monitoring everything (heart rate, oxygen intake, blood sugar levels, number of calories consumed, number of steps walked and run, etc.) has given rise to the “Quantified Self” movement, also known as lifelogging. Lifelogging is now going deeper—According to Wikipedia, “one can track insulin and cortisol levels, sequence DNA, and see what microbial cells inhabit his or her body.” But it’s not just bio-geeks and health & fitness fanatics who want to monitor and manage their bodies.

Smartwatch Comparison, Credit Bloomberg BusinessweekWith the advent of the Apple Watch, the Samsung Gear, the Sony Smartwatch, the LG G Watch, and the Motorola Moto 360, I believe that lifelogging will now go mainstream. There are many of us who have stopped wearing watches because we always have our cell phones handy to tell us the time. But it’s not always convenient to “wear” a mobile phone. A watch is easy to put on in the morning and to leave on (unlike my Fitbit tracker that I have, but can never find, because it’s a single-purpose device and I tend to remove it from my body when I’m not exercising). If I go back to wearing a watch because it lets me monitor my email and texts, provides news headlines, and tracks my health and fitness (and lets me take phone calls?), the chances are good that I will pay more attention to my fitness. As smart watches roll from early adopters to mainstream adoption, I predict that this will bring a huge shift in power in the healthcare industry. Patients (customers) will take control. As we have done in many other industries, from music to publishing to retail to manufacturing (via smart customization).

Customers Now Control Their Real-Time Health Information

What interests me about lifelogging going mainstream is that I believe that it will shift the balance of power in the healthcare industry. Mainstream customer access to real-time health monitoring is occurring just as we, the patients, are waking up to the fact that we have the right to access, update, and correct our complete medical records. This awareness is dawning along with the welcome shift towards participatory medicine, as both doctors and patients realize that we can achieve better outcomes when we work collaboratively with our medical team informed by accurate, shared information.

Customers’ Health Information Is More Up-to-Date than Doctors’ Information

Since our personal health and fitness information will be more up-to-date than what our doctors have on file, we’ll be coming into our doctors’ offices carrying our personal health records on our smart devices and planning to upload them to the doctor’s files so we can consult them together. When information is power, this is a HUGE shift in the balance of power.

Design Center for Medical Systems Should Be Personal Health Records!

Aetna's Personal Health RecordSo here’s my epiphany, which was triggered by the announcement of the Apple Watch on September 9th. The mammoth, costly, Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems that are being rolled out all over the country are probably doomed. (In our State alone, there are three major healthcare systems. The one that serves our area of the state has experienced a $150 million cost overrun, replaced its CIO, and has delayed the roll out of its updated Epic system by 24 months. I don’t think this is unusual.) Each of these systems has a “bolted on” patient portal—a secure website you can log into to access some of your medical records. Many insurance companies also provide patient portals that attempt to aggregate patients’ medical records.

Yet, the PERSONAL health and fitness apps that we will all be carrying around on our wrists will track all of our vital signs and fitness history. Wouldn’t it make more sense to start there? Enable our Personal Health Record (PHR) applications—the ones we control—to pull information from our medical charts, our medical histories, and our doctors’ notes from our office visits and add that context and history to the real time snapshot of our current health and fitness and then provide that information back to our caregivers when they need it to consult with us?

LET'S NOT REPEAT THE FAILURES OF CRM in EMRs. As an aside, I'm reminded of the failures of the CRM industry. For over two decades, companies have been rolling out expensive and unwieldy “Customer Relationship Management” systems to enable them to pull together everything they know about each customer or prospect. Unfortunately, the design center for all these systems was ass-backwards. CRM systems didn’t start by asking “what does the customer need to know about their relationship with our firm and the products they’ve purchased and the services they’re using?” Instead, the design center for CRM systems always was: “what do we need to know about these customers in order to sell them something more?” Eventually, companies built customer self-service websites to give customers access to the information those customers cared about—their records and information. But it took a long time—two decades. And CRM has never been done the right way, which would be by starting with the info that customers need and value. Maybe it’s time to turn the healthcare industry inside out? Let’s start with Personal Health Records!


Be the first one to comment.

You must be a member to comment. Sign in or create a free account.