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Health consumerism will drive future of healthcare, expert says

As hospitals recede as the dominant focal point of healthcare, the consumerization of health is empowering people with access to their own health records and patient engagement.

In the first part of a two-part Q&A, Nick van Terheyden, M.D., chief medical officer of Dell's healthcare and life sciences services division, talks about the rise of health consumerism, and what it means for providers and patients.

Read part two, in which van Terheyden discusses the effectiveness of patient engagement and access to health information.

Can you talk about health consumerism and its effect on healthcare providers?

Nick van Terheyden: I think one of the most interesting areas around healthcare innovation is where we take existing technology that's being applied elsewhere and apply it in the healthcare setting. That, to me, is always a very engaging and productive approach, because it's not so much net new as net reapplication of technology in a different setting. And from a health consumerism standpoint, we've seen that across a number of industries where it's engagement and interaction and devolution of control and access. Take the hospitality industry. They've understood the process.

Nick van Terheyden, M.D., chief medical officer, healthcare and life sciences services division, DellNick van Terheyden, M.D.

Go back to when the airlines introduced the automated check-in kiosk. There was a huge amount of resistance to that. I'm sure that there are still some people that prefer to go to the check-in desk, and there are lots of people who still do. But I think most of us have become very familiar with that process. In fact, many of us love that aspect of being able to do it at home. I think we have a tremendous opportunity to sort of capitalize on that, provide real-time information, offload some of those more mundane tasks that occur in healthcare.

This is not about getting rid of people. This is about freeing up those resources that are already over-utilized. The idea that you only spend seven minutes with your physician is really a function of them doing all these other tasks. While they add some value, they're not really the value that I, as a patient, am looking for. So, I think the technology is really enabling that shift of activity, allowing people to be engaged. I'm a big proponent of this interaction and the opportunity for technology to enable that interaction, allow me access.

What are some of the other health consumerism techniques, methodologies and technologies that will be successful going forward?

van Terheyden: The internet of things and what I would call the internet of medical things is now starting to add information and utility to all of the data that we traditionally have collected in a much more abbreviated form. You go to your physician's office twice a year, maybe. You have your blood pressure measured. Maybe it's more often. Even if it's four, five times a year, that's not a lot. Why can we not do that in the house? Why can we not take the measure of your weight and process that? And we are. We're starting to do that.

And there's some pushback from physicians who say, 'That's not relevant. I don't care about the number of steps you do.' And I would always turn around and say, 'It's never a data problem. It's always a filter problem.' And we need to filter that data appropriately. I, as a physician, am interested in the number of steps -- or, rather, the increase or decrease in your step count -- over the course of the last two or three months since I've seen you. The same with your weight [and] same with your activity. All of those things, I think, are relevant.

As we start to input more information, we start to complete the record. If you imagine your medical record as a piece of string, what we typically have was all tiny snips of that string when you visited a facility or a hospital or your physician. Now, we're starting to complete that picture. And we're getting more insights into patients and more insights at different times. And that's all going to add value, and improve the overall quality for patients, and allow them to get better healthcare and to be healthier through that data and the support of their physicians who will be freed up to be able to deliver, you know, more interactions and more support.

So, you're saying that the role of the brick-and-mortar hospital and the doctor's office is likely going to diminish as we get more health consumerism, telemedicine and internet of medical things?

van Terheyden: Absolutely. And I know that we will see construction of hospitals, and I think their function will change. The medical home, I think, is an imperative if you ask anybody and, certainly, the older generation. I want to age in my own home; I don't want to age in just any home. And our capacity to allow for that is going to be driven by our ability to support that effectively both with passive monitoring, as well as active engagement and active monitoring -- and not just of the individuals, but also with help from the family members.

And I think the coordination of that [monitoring] with remote children who want to be part of that care but have struggled and mom or dad can't explain [to them] what the physician said. But now, suddenly, we can have this communal source where everybody goes to and has access to information. And my ability to see into to my mother's activities and know that she got up in the morning and that she's OK without troubling her, it's really very reassuring. I think that's going to change things. Hospitals will increasingly become specialized treatment centers for things that can't be done or shouldn't be done in the home, you know, either through complexity or from a safety standpoint.

Next Steps

Dell and Baystate Hospital collaborate on kiosk concept

Elder monitoring and the rise of health consumerism

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This was last published in July 2016

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Essential Guide

A guide to healthcare IoT possibilities and obstacles

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