Wouldn’t it be nice if you could see your doctor every day to help you work through your health questions and concerns? Or how about being able to get an automated reminder to get your next mammogram and being able to text back an appointment confirmation?
These are not just ideas of the future, but are “within sight,” according to Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who gave a keynote presentation at this year’s mHealth Summit at National Harbor in Washington, D.C. on Monday.
The mHealth Summit brings leaders from all different areas, including the government and industry, to help advance the use of mobile phones and wireless technology for improving health.
“When we talk about mobile health and think about the possibilities of the future, we are talking about taking our biggest technology breakthrough of our time and using it to address our greatest national challenge,” Sebelius said. “And while we have a way to go, we can already imagine a remarkable future where control over a patients own health is already within their reach.”
With more than 12,000 apps related to health available through the iTunes store and smart phones accounting for more than half of all phone sales, it is time for the healthcare profession to catch up to the technology seen “in almost every area of our lives,” Sebelius said.
“We’ve gone from waiting until a bank opens to make a deposit, to 24 hour ATMs and being able to pay a bill on-line. But health care has stubbornly held on to its cabinets and hanging files,” she said.
Sebelius cited lack of information or an “information deficit” as one of the problems facing patients today.
“Patients often have little access to their own healthcare information,” she said. Doctors also suffer from incomplete medical records about their own patients, not just if they went to the ER, but also whether “they are sticking to a diabetes regiment.”
Sebelius said that it was with these problems in mind, and the fact that health costs account for 17 percent of the U.S. GDP, that President Obama “launched an historic effort…to speed up the adoption of electronic medical records.”
Since 2009, doctors using electronic medical records (EMR) has doubled from 17 percent to 34 percent, according to Sebelius, with an additional 52 percent saying they will adopt them soon.
She also stated that since the implementation for EMRs “50,000 new jobs have been created in this new field.”
For Sebelius extending EMRs to mobile devices “is the natural extension of this trend; bringing health information from people’s computers, to their pockets and purses.”