The future of healthcare technology was center stage in Las Vegas this spring at the HLTH Future of Healthcare conference that attracted payors, policy makers and innovators seeking technological advances in healthcare.
The meeting included a session on the future of digital health with a presentation by Michael L. Hodgkins, M.D., chief medical officer for the American Medical Association.
Although the industry may still be in its infancy, digital health tools are in practice today. Among the more common technology solutions include online patient portals, secure text messaging, telemedicine, mobile clinical decision support services and online provider communities.
But as with any new technology, there are startup challenges and in medicine, that challenge centers on trust and malpractice fears. Some providers and patients are reluctant to take the plunge for fear that these tools are not secure, Dr. Hodgkins said.
“Aside from medical malpractice, there’s the concern about privacy and security. As the physician, you are held accountable for breaches of patient information under HIPAA. Your patients’ trust depends on the security and privacy of their data being preserved,” he said.
Dermatologists and dermatology patients are especially interested in exploring the benefits of digital health technology ―after all, the specialty is visual-centric. This interest has been documented in telemedicine surveys and studies, including a March 14 study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment showing that 90.80% of 841 surveyed patients would schedule appointments online, but the interest dropped from there:
• 84.41% would complete online patient registrations
• 76.56% prefer electronically-placed prescriptions
• 76.34% would use digital healthcare services for medical consults
• 65.37% of patients would personally cover the cost of an online consult
• 42.03% would view online learning videos
• 40.89% would send photos of skin changes by email to their doctor
• 40.61% would send photos of skin changes by mobile apps to their doctor
• 34.53% would agree to an online consultation
“I think physicians are rightfully concerned about the use of digital medicine and whether it’s actually going to deliver more efficient and better care, or if it’s just going to add to the frustration” Dr. Hodgkins said.
IN A MORE PERFECT DIGITAL WORLD
Imperfections aside, the march toward increasing use of digital health tools is going forward, he said.
“Let’s say you have a patient with a chronic skin condition, like psoriasis, do you have to see them in the clinic as frequently? Possibly not. If you could get needed information in an immediate way from a patient without the patient having to come to the clinic, and if it wasn’t going to negatively impact your clinic revenue, why wouldn’t you use one of these tools?” Dr. Hodgkins asked.
Triaging patients with skin lesions is another promising area for digital health apps in dermatology. Patients could send dermatologists high-definition images of lesions they’re concerned about. The dermatologist could take a look, first, to decide whether the patient needs to come in for a visit and then whether findings could be discussed via a virtual tool, such as video conferencing.
… See “Physician-driven innovation” on next page.