Why Consumerization Is Coming to Cardiac Monitoring

Posted in Cardiovascular by Bob Michaels on September 18, 2012
Photo by Sacha Chua

In cardiology, the traditional paradigm has been: device and test data go to doctors; patients don’t know anything about it. “I think there is a huge impetus to change that,” says iPhone ECG inventor David Albert, MD, who will be speaking on the role of consumerization in cardiology at MedTech Cardio in Minneapolis on October 30.

Some patients themselves are clamoring for change. The most visible example of that trend is Hugo Campos, a patient advocate implanted with an implantable cardiac defibrillator who is on a quest to get data from the device.

In addition, a growing number of patients want to be engaged in their own care and, at the same time, they are growing weary of the paternalism often found in medicine. “We often treat patients like they aren’t responsible—like they are children: do this, don’t do that; don’t call me, I’ll call you,” Albert says. “Medicine from that perspective is going to change.”

Another driver of this trend is the explosion of mobile technology. “In the cardiovascular space, we have all of these interesting technologies and now we are going to be able to integrate them into things like cell phones, which everybody has with them all of the time.” There is also the Quantified Self movement, which has made self-tracking cool. “And what happens when heart patients become Quantified-Self adherents?” asks Albert.

One of the most powerful drivers of consumer empowerment is economics. “Probably one of these days, as people are becoming more financially responsible for their healthcare, patients will have rights to have their data,” Albert explains. “And we are going to be able to give them a whole lot more than just their heart rate,” he adds. “I know it scares a lot of physicians to talk about engaging patients in their own care, but guess what, get over it. It is going to happen. We’ll all figure out how it works as we go. It is not something that will be easily planned. The patients are going to be engaged because they are going to have to pay more money and, because of that, they are going to be more interested.”

In healthcare, payers wield an enormous amount of power, and Medicare and insurance companies are working to reduce costs by giving patients more control over their healthcare. “Whoever wins the election, Medicare is going to demand that people be more responsible,” Albert says. “When money is involved, very quickly, people will change behaviors.” Brian Buntz