There’s a tsunami of consumer-generated health data on the horizon and care providers would do well to get on board, AliveCor founder and chief medical officer Dr. Dave Albert told an audience today at Heart Rhythm 2014, the Heart Rhythm Society’s 35th Annual Scientific Sessions.
Smartphones are everywhere and patients are increasingly interested in staying out of the clinic, using consumer-based monitors that can provide a rich picture of health and lifestyle.
"I can put everybody in this room who does not have a smartphone in [an area the size of] that trash can," Albert said, adding that prevalence and popularity of complementary apps and monitors are turning smartphones into "pocket doctors."
Albert invented the AliveCor smartphone ECG monitor, which takes clinic-level heart rate readings with a snap-on case that connects with an app available for iPhones and Android devices. The device won over-the-counter clearance from the FDA earlier this year.
Now, more than ever, patients can not only access and keep digital copies of their own medical records, they can also generate their own healthcare data. An aging population facing rising health insurance deductibles will further encourage patients to make a much stronger investment in preventative healthcare. As retailers stock their shelves with heart rate monitors, calorie counters, cloud-enabled scales and wearable fitness trackers, many patients are beginning to keep track of their own health patterns and habits daily, taking more of their healthcare into their own hands.
"People are becoming quantified," Albert said. "We have to figure out how to utilize that to take better care of our patients. Engaged patients are compliant patients!"
But what happens when a patient brings her physician 50 pages of Fitbit activity tracker data? Despite good intentions, clinicians could easily waste hours of time parsing through the information with no immediately apparent benefit.
Personal trackers are poised to become all but unavoidable, Albert said, making efficiency key for doctors looking to meet patients halfway with their self-generated data.
Data-driven self-diagnosis is not just a smartphone-fueled fad, he added; it’s becoming part of health culture, and physicians will need to teach patients how they can participate effectively without wasting either party’s time or resources.
As the community’s responsibility towards personal healthcare swells, Albert said, patients have become more empowered and engaged, presenting a golden opportunity for the physician who embraces these changes as an opportunity rather than a nuisance.