Healthcare IT: What It Can–and Cannot–Do For Your Practice

 If the proliferation of new health info technology has your head spinning, don’t worry. You are definitely not alone.

The rapid explosion of consumer-facing genome tests and wearable self-monitoring devices is giving many practitioners a serious case of Future Shock. Others have devoted considerable time and money exploring gadgets and “solutions” that sound great in principle but fail to deliver much in practice.

Paul Abramson, MD, founder of My Doctor Medical Group, a thriving personalized medical practice in San Francisco, has more experience than most when it comes to new Quantifiedpaul abramson medx 400 Self (QS) technology. A self-avowed technophile, Dr. Abramson was an electrical engineer prior to becoming a physician.

He’s the epitome of “early adopter” when it comes to bringing new and potentially disruptive gear into his practice: stethoscopes with built-in data screens; hydraulic standing desks; smartphone-based ECGs, all manner of wearable monitors. He even tried accepting Bitcoin as a method of payment.

Like many doctors around the country, he’s seeing a growth in patients who come in with massive amounts of self-gathered data and expect that someone’s going to help them make sense of it.

Choose Carefully

What he’s learned is that practitioners need to choose tech tools very carefully.

“We’ve tried almost everything,” Dr. Abramson tells Holistic Primary Care. “I’ve got a huge rack of non-recyclable plastic gadgets. It’s like a Quantified Self graveyard! A lot of them are really cool, but just not that useful.“

Some of the emerging tools can be great assets in clinical practice. A really meaningful tech solution provides information that’s useful, actionable, user-friendly, and unavailable from existing technology.

There’s good stuff out there, but practitioners—and patients–need to cut through the hype around health IT.

Case in point is Fitbit, the line of stylish activity trackers that promise to help people take charge of their health and reduce risk of chronic diseases. The company’s IPO last week fetched stock prices upward of $30 per share, and a company valuation over $4 billion.

FitbitAccording to Dr. Abramson, who writes a blog called The Quantified Doctor, the glamorous gizmos offer little benefit beyond what you’d get from a $10 Omron pedometer. “Does Fitbit really help people change? Well….maybe.”

Insight, Not Easy Answers

He believes self-tracking can be an important part of patient care. QS technology can shed considerable light on what’s going on in patients’ lives, and it really can help motivated people make positive changes. Practitioners who learn how to use QS tools gain an edge that can help them distinguish their practices.

The problem is that most consumer-focused systems are not designed to interface with a medical practice. The same holds true with direct-to-consumer genome testing.

“The technology is being built by developers who design things based on what they want to build, not on what we practitioners or our patients really need.”

Even the best IT tools are just that—tools, not magic wands. Both the practitioner and the patient need to recognize that IT doesn’t necessarily give easy answers, and that gathering and analyzing data takes time and effort.

“Let’s face it: medicine is messy because life is messy. Technology doesn’t make it less messy.”

At Heal Thy Practice 2015, Dr. Abramson will offer insights gleaned from years at the crossroad of integrative medicine and health IT. He’ll share his experience with a number of popular QS devices and IT platforms, and provide guidance on:

  • Choosing practice management systems that are right for your practice
  • Evaluating the clinical utility of patient-self tracking tools
  • Using technology to improve clinical decision-making
  • Empowering patients with the right tech-tools
  • Working with office staff to optimize the positive impact of health IT

Join Dr. Abramson and the rest of the outstanding Heal Thy Practice faculty members for a weekend of inspiration and transformation.

Register today!

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