2014: The year of the empowered patient…and physician?

As the healthcare industry evolves, physicians find themselves with less and less time to spend with patients. As a result, voice-enabled mHealth apps, such as AskMD and Sense.ly, are emerging to empower patients and enable them to take a more active role in their own health and well-being.

The latest estimates suggest that new physicians only have about eight minutes to spend with each patient.  Today, much of their time is being devoted to “punching below their weight.”  In other words, while time focused on patient care wanes, resources and efforts devoted to things like paperwork (albeit digital paperwork) are on the rise as physicians are forced to shoulder growing regulatory demands while also driving toward the creation of a “learning” healthcare system.

As a result, both physicians and patients must find ways to derive the most value out of the time they spend together.  Intelligent systems, built on cloud-based voice recognition, language understanding and artificial intelligence, have a critical role to play in maximizing time in this next-generation of patient care.  Intelligent systems have the ability to not only interact on a human level, but also understand and reason to deliver a desired outcome – such as finding and instantly playing a movie or, from a more clinical perspective, giving physicians easy access to data locked within the electronic health record (EHR).

Helping physicians make the most of their time with the patient

For physicians, intelligent systems come in the form of natural, conversational and intuitive technologies that break down IT barriers that sit between the physician and the patient – getting technology to work for doctors, rather than against them.  Intelligent systems help doctors address ever-changing technological shifts in order to get them back to the bedside practicing the art of medicine, despite increased demands on their time and resources.

This type of technology puts the focus back on the patient by allowing physicians to interact naturally with the EHR and other clinical systems to quickly retrieve patient information, delegate and fulfill patient care orders, easily navigate EHRs, and more fluidly issue care directives.  Ultimately, intelligent systems simplify the day-to-day duties of the doctor and other members of the care team which has critical implications on us – the patients.

Giving patients the tools to more actively engage in proactive care

In addition to streamlining administrative duties and easing the burden of the shift to digital care for physicians, we need patients to become more engaged in order to truly increase the value of care and drive down costs.  A critical component to empowering patients is arming them with intelligent systems of their own that allow them to access information on-the-go in order to gain initial insights on symptoms and care treatments so that they can make the most of the eight minutes with their physician.

Most recently, Sharecare, the online health and wellness engagement platform founded by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Jeff Arnold (WebMD founder), launched AskMD to help empower patients.  AskMD is an iPhone app that helps identify what might be causing your symptoms, as well as doctors and specialists qualified to treat them. This free app helps get patients organized around their health and wellness, enabling them to have a more fruitful doctor’s visit and ultimately get better faster.  One of the key focal points of consideration when designing AskMD was that it had to be easy to use and intuitive from the start.  That’s why AskMD allows you to simply use your voice to initiate a series of questions relevant to your healthcare issue, taking into account all your symptoms and other factors, like medications and known conditions.

Another application, Sense.ly, also uses intelligent systems to fuel patient engagement in personal care but in much different way.  Sense.ly leverages voice recognition and gesture technology to automate patient engagement outside of hospital walls.  It also promotes long-term wellness by leveraging an avatar, “Molly,” to spur reminders and checkpoints related to ongoing management of health conditions – and all directly from one’s own home.

As we close the door to 2013 and look ahead to 2014, I think it’s safe to say that the concept of the empowered patient – armed with mHealth apps and able to engage with a doctor from the comfort of their couch – will take center stage in the coming year.  Still, as we balance a new world full of patient-generated health data and self-diagnosis tools, we must not lose sight of the need to simplify healthcare with intelligent, intuitive technology for patients, but also for the physicians who serve the best interests of those patients.


This post originally appeared on mHealthNews.

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Jonathon Dreyer

About Jonathon Dreyer

Jonathon Dreyer is the senior director of solutions marketing for Nuance’s Healthcare division where he is driving a physician-first approach to medicine by bringing cloud-based speech recognition and clinical language understanding technology to a worldwide community of healthcare IT developers and provider organizations. Prior to his current role, Jon worked as the solutions marketing manager for Diagnostic Imaging at Nuance and previously headed up marketing at Commissure Inc., a provider of clinical documentation and healthcare communication solutions. Jon graduated with Summa Cum Laude honors at Wayne State University where he earned a B.S business administration.