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While smartphones are poised to change the way healthcare is delivered, the adoption of apps for healthcare is still lagging, according to a new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center.
During a Dec. 10 briefing in Washington D.C., Janet Marchibroda, chairwoman of the Health IT Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said smartphones have changed every aspect of life, affecting the way people shop, travel and manage their finances.
"If we could apply that use of smartphones to healthcare, great things would result," she said.
Barriers on the consumer side often include a lack of awareness that the apps are out there, and more innovation is still needed in the marketplace.
Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national coordinator for health information technology, who spoke at the briefing, said providers are often unsure as to how HIPAA guidelines affect the use of smartphones and apps.
"Sometimes it’s interpreted that HIPAA means, 'I can’t give you your health information,'" he said. "HIPAA gives people a right to access of the information in the format that they want."
Mostashari said the ONC is trying to get the message out that authentication for smartphones is available, and that "people want access to their healthcare records."
Tom Daschle, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and co-founder of the Bipartisan Policy Center, said patient engagement is still a critical and missing piece to improving healthcare and lowering costs, and that smartphones could be a part of that solution.
"At 18 percent and rising, healthcare spending is placing a considerable burden on our economy," added Marchibroda. "Identifying ways to decrease healthcare costs is critically important to our nation."
Electronic tools can improve patient-physician communication, she said. Improved patient-centered communication can lead to fewer diagnostic tests and higher adherence to medication, as well as having a positive impact on behavioral changes and patient self-management.
"Engaged patients are also more satisfied when they are knowledgeable, involved and empowered," she added.
"While healthcare providers have widely embraced patient engagement, it’s sometimes hard to get there," said Marchibroda. Patient-doctor communication most often takes place in the exam room, for less than 20 minutes at a time, she added. This makes it difficult for physicians and patients to communicate.
The use of electronic communication tools could help tackle problems before they happen and improve the experience for patients, she concluded.
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