Why Mobile Health Matters
At Zobreus, we often get asked “why does having your medical record matter?” One especially poignant answer came from Dr. Dhruv Khullar in his insightful New York Times piece entitled Let Patients Read Their Medical Records last week. In actuality, there are several compelling reasons — enough to warrant a separate post. Suffice to say the medical record is the backbone of our entire health system — it’s important. Nonetheless, an arguably more challenging and related question is “why mobile?”
To answer, let’s start with the “default” which is easy to overlook. In the earliest days of medicine, and still in many parts of the world, your record already is, and always has been, “mobile.” That is, it resides with you already — be it in your head, via your vital signs, on some scratched notes in your pocket, etc. It was only as medical information became more voluminous that it became more “efficient” for providers to maintain your written records instead. Yet, as healthcare further specialized, and people started to move from city-to-city, and practice-to-practice, the inefficiencies of scattered paper records became quite clear themselves. Enter the electronic medical record era we’re now in. The problem-solver right? Not so fast.
What we now have is simply a migration of your scattered record from practice-specific paper charts, to practice-specific electronic ones. There’s been no meaningful interoperability gain. Meanwhile, nearly 4 out of every 5 people on this planet now carries a mobile “server” in their pockets. Since we readily have the technology to securely have our complete records with us at all times, and the patient is the one constant at all health encounters, the patient — as a walking server — is inarguably the most efficient solution to medical record fragmentation. There’s no longer any efficiency from having your records scattered in different silos – providers get no benefit from this, and it comprises patients as well.
If that was all, it might be enough. But mobile is so much more. So let’s get back to our “default.” We already are walking “records”: we have our histories, we know our bodies, we went to all the appointments, we have the rash/broken bone, and so on. Our health system is already inefficient at accurately getting this information from us. But those darn little servers in our pockets aren’t – or soon won’t be! From fit tracking data, to spotting changes in behavior, to taking photos, or to tracking adherence, our mobile devices have a lot of potential to deliver precious information from us back into the health system, and not simply the other way around.
A comprehensive electronic medical record tool that we control, and that could capture and process all of this information to, and from, the healthcare system is an all around win. Perhaps even an imperative.
So the question really should be “why not mobile?”