Electronic tools, including smartphones, can help patients, but the adoption of apps for healthcare is still lagging, according to a new report released by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
At a Dec. 10 report-release briefing, Janet Marchibroda, chair of the Health IT Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said smartphones have changed every aspect of American life, including the way Americans shop, travel and manage their finances. "If we could apply that use of smartphones to healthcare, great things would result," she said.
Barriers on the consumer side often include lack of awareness that the apps are out there, and more innovation is still needed in the marketplace.
Farzad Mostashari, MD, national coordinator for health information technology, who spoke at the briefing, said one barrier is often providers' lack of understanding of HIPAA. "Sometimes it’s interpreted that HIPAA means, 'I can’t give you your health information.' HIPAA gives people a right to access the information in the format that they want."
Mostashari said the main message from ONC’s tiger teams is that authentication for smartphones is here: "People want access to their healthcare records."
Tom Daschle, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and co-founder of the Bipartisan Policy Center said patient engagement is still a critical and missing piece to improving American healthcare and lowering costs – and smartphones could be a part of that.
"At eighteen percent and rising, healthcare spending is placing a considerable burden on our economy," added Marchibroda. "Identifying ways to decrease healthcare costs is critically important to our nation."
Electronic tools can improve patient-physician communication, she said. Patient-centered communication is associated with fewer diagnostic tests and higher adherence to medication. It has also been associated with a positive impact on behavioral changes and patient self-care management. "Engaged patients are also more satisfied when they are knowledgeable, involved and empowered," she added.
"While healthcare providers have widely embraced patient engagement, it’s sometimes hard to get there," said Marchibroda. Patient-doctor communication most often takes place in the exam room, for less than 20 minutes at a time, she added. This makes it difficult for physicians and patients to communicate. The use of electronic communication tools could help tackle problems before they happen and improve the experience for patients.
Read the entire Bipartisan Policy Center report here.