Inmar Inc. | August 31, 2015

Healthcare providers can talk to patients about the right things to do for their health, but they can't make them do it. But we in the technology sector have a unique opportunity to make the connection.

One of the sessions at the recent NACDS Total Store Expo focused on how healthcare providers can better impact patient participation in their treatment and improve medication adherence by employing a technique called motivational interviewing. The presenter, Bruce Berger, PhD, RPh, is a seasoned pharmacist, healthcare consultant and retired university educator. No stranger to med adherence issues, Dr. Berger has developed the motivational interview as part of a training curriculum he delivers for healthcare providers.

What he suggests is a more collaborative, non-authoritative manner of speaking with patients about things they should do, such as taking medications and exercising. Berger purports that the traditional authority-figure based approach tends to keep patients in a passive mode, perpetuating ambivalence. He believes a more collaborative, conversational, "we're together in this" tactic is more likely to get results by helping patients feel more involved in their health and treatment, thereby increasing the likelihood of adherence to treatment regimens.

He makes a very good point. But remember the aforementioned connection? That conversation with the patient can still vanish when the appointment is over. Once the patient leaves the office, the doctor has no way to ensure that someone actually does what they're supposed to do.

That's where mHealth comes in (mobile technology connected to health activities and information). Imagine the power of a shift in doctor-patient conversation when the end of that conversation is boosted by the physician giving the patient a tool through which to participate and get results.

The proliferation of health apps and tech that can turn a cell phone into a health monitoring device is simply phenomenal. As increasing numbers of health systems and pharmacies have begun developing mobile apps to that end and for simply sharing information, some interesting things are emerging. Finally, we're starting to see research on their effectiveness, much of it validating the value mHealth can have on improving patient outcomes.

Earlier this year, the London-based research firm Research Now published the following findings from interviews with 500 healthcare professionals and 1,000 health app users in the U.S. Here are some of their key findings:

  • 46% of healthcare professionals say that they will introduce mobile apps to their practice in the next five years.
  • 86% of healthcare professionals believe that health apps will increase their knowledge of patients' conditions.
  • 96% of users think that health apps help to improve their quality of life.
  • 72% of healthcare professionals believe that health apps will encourage patients to take more responsibility for their health.

This makes it clear that in addition to Dr. Berger's suggestions for providers taking a collaborative approach to treatment adherence conversations with patients, they can have an even greater impact on improving outcomes by giving patients the power to participate. With the right mHealth tools, we can have a significant effect on health and well-being in America.

What do you think? Agree or disagree with me in the comments section below.‚Äč