While questions remain about the reliability of patient-generated health data, there is little doubt it will play a big role in the future of health care. With new rules for electronic health records coming nearly as fast as the technology developed to drive them, hospitals, physicians’ offices and pharmacies are scrambling to keep up.
Technology and the future of health care
Patients are more engaged in their own health care than ever before. One way they’re taking control is by using wireless monitoring devices such as Fitbit and mobile apps to collect data about their health. According to a 2014 Manhattan Research Cybercitizen Health report, 95 million Americans use at least one of the more than 100,000 mobile health devices available today. Within the next five years, the report predicts, more than 1.7 million smartphone users will have downloaded a mobile health app. In the not-too-distant future, you’ll be able to upload that data directly to your personal electronic health record (EHR) through an online patient portal.
Patient data, doctors and pharmacists
Patient-generated health data (PGHD) covers everything from health and treatment history to biometric data collected via a mobile device or smartphone app. Some examples of PGHD might include blood pressure readings and blood glucose monitoring recorded at home, diet and exercise tracking via a mobile app, or online questionnaires about medication adherence. PGHD can help doctors gather information in real-time, assess how patients are doing between office visits, and even catch certain conditions before they become chronic. Pharmacists can improve patient safety by gathering PGHD about medications a patient is taking in order to avoid drug interactions or to prevent allergic reactions.
PGHD and meaningful use
In early 2014, the government’s Health Information Technology Standards Committee (HITSC) workgroup recommended requiring Stage 3 Meaningful Use participants to allow patients to electronically report 10 percent of their PGHD. Meaningful Use is part of the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act. The incentive program uses a combination of stimulus money and penalties to entice hospitals and physicians to adopt EHR technology. In addition to the 10 percent requirement, the HITSC recommendations state that providers must be able to receive, review, respond to, and record PGHD by the time Meaningful Use Stage 3 is implemented sometime in 2017.
Although many physicians have legitimate concerns about “data overload” and how to properly incorporate the additional information into their clinical records, most already use some form of PGHD in their practices. Information such as patient-reported outcomes and transplant histories has long been part of most patient records. Add to that the fact that PGHD technologies such as secure messaging and cloud storage for biometric and device data already exist and it’s not a question of if the health data you collect will be used alongside clinical information in your EHR — it’s only a matter of when. And that when is coming sooner than you think.