Introduction: What is Connected Health, and Why Should We Care?

Nov 25, 2013

Introduction: A scenario Imagine being transported back in time, say, fifteen years ago. Pre-Facebook and Twitter. Before “google” was a verb. The era when the terms “information super highway” and “cyberspace” could be used without eliciting a nostalgic smirk. Back then, I would have never imagined a future where a thumb-sized device would reside on my belt, silently sending data about my daily physical activity and sleep habits to a mini-computer in my pocket (that also made phone calls), and compiling it into a personal graph, on the internet. I never thought that my bathroom scale in the year 2013 would wirelessly report my weight as a data point on that same graph. (And to think, my victorious one-pound loss would then be advertised to all 573 of my cyberspace friends, as I eagerly awaited their “likes” of approval.) But the above scenario is today’s reality. An estimated 16.2 million fitness trackers were sold in 2011, such as the FitBit and Nike’s FuelBand. What is Connected Health? These days, we live in a world surrounded by technology - tracking devices, displays, sensors, etc. Technology has also become better at inter-communication. Connected Health is a paradigm where technology is the backbone of health care, with several interconnected goals, including:

  • increasing "patient-centeredness", whereby patients champion their own health care decisions, in part, through the use of technology
  • improvements in health monitoring for chronic diseases
  • better standardization in health care informatics and its integration across different systems
  • reducing cost and increasing efficiency in health care delivery.

What does this mean for us as health care students and professionals? You’ll increasingly see how principles of Connected Health are becoming integrated into clinical settings. Many questions still remain unanswered, though: For example, with the increase in monitoring tools, will there suddenly be an influx of new patient data for clinicians to deal with? Will this data actually be useful when treating the patient? How will we incorporate all of this new information into the clinical workflow? Is there such a thing as knowing too much? Do you want to be alerted when your 86-year-old patient has taken her anti-hypertensive medication based on a “smart” pill bottle? These are all questions I plan to discuss in future posts, and I hope you’ll join me in discussion in the comments section!

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