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Patient interest strong in app use to manage care

A survey says many hope to manage their care with tablets and other devices, but some practices are lagging behind to meet those technological desires.

By Sue Ter Maat — Posted July 15, 2013

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Patients want to handle their health care issues using smartphones and tablets, but not all physician offices have the technology to accommodate them, health care experts said.

More than a third of 2,000 adults who responded to an online Harris Interactive/HealthDay survey said they were highly interested in employing technology to manage their medical issues. Nearly 40% of young adults said they would like to use technology this way, compared with 25% of older adults, according to the survey, released in June.

More than 30% of respondents said they would be “very” or “extremely” interested in being able to ask doctors questions, book appointments, check the effects of medicine, and receive test results and reminders to refill prescriptions.

Respondents were less interested in receiving reminders to take medication and to participate in exercise, diet, weight loss and smoking cessation. About 25% sought to use those services through a smartphone or tablet.

Some physician offices are still working on adding technology to meet technological demands from patients, said Derek Kosiorek, a principal in MGMA Healthcare Consulting Group. About one in five practices offers access to medical records through patient portals, he said.

“There’s a real big gap here where we are and where patients want to be,” he said. “The technology is evolving faster than can be implemented.”

But within two years, doctors’ offices should catch up, he said.

Many patients want to add information to their medical records through their smartphones, he said. In the future, they should be able to send health results such as blood pressure or blood glucose figures directly to their electronic health records for their physicians to monitor. But the app to do that isn’t ready yet, he said.

Delay in implementation

It’s not uncommon for demand to outpace technology, said Titus Schleyer, DMD, PhD, director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics at the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis. Practices need the money to add the technology that allows patients to use smartphones and tablets to manage their health. Also, some physicians are more comfortable interacting with patients face to face instead of dealing with them remotely, he added.

Usually, whenever new technology emerges, there’s a degree of skepticism and lag in implementation, he said.

“I use the analogy about when the camera was invented,” Schleyer said. “For many years, people made movies by simply pointing a [stationary] camera at a stage. In the early days, they couldn’t figure out how to use the new medium.”

Although there may be a lack of implementation now, physicians say they want to add systems with mobile components.

In a May report by Black Book Research, a technology research firm, 36% of 17,000 surveyed physicians said they have implemented or are working on a mobile app that provides access to records. Eighty-nine percent of primary care doctors use smartphones, and 51% of all physicians use tablets.

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