Must ePatients embrace mHealth w/ caution?

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First, the Music Industry was transformed by technology

Back in college, I was a serious music fan and collected “Albums” for the entire experience of reading the linear notes while listening, and possibly even using, the rare double album cover for more nefarious and deleterious purposes.  These days, at least one of those purposes is considered “medicinal,” so, in retrospect, maybe I wasn’t the outlaw, The Allman Brothers’ double album, “Eat a Peach,” made me in my mind.  As time went by and 8-track tapes became as hard to find as talent when Kim Kardasian looks in the mirror, no one ever thought Albums would go away.  Ergo, the emergence of the “Record Collection.”  But, the technological advancement from analog to digital imbued the emergence of the Compact Disc or “CD.”

New Technology creates Consumer Convenience before improved Music Quality

Record labels convinced us all that the digitized music tracks on CDs resulted in a better listening experience and one which more closely resembled the recorded performance. But the truth is that technological progress [in this case “digitalizing”] seems to always first focus on “convenience” before it improves quality.  That second part is undertaken by entrepreneurs whose divergent interests range from plain old capitalism to humanitarian purposes.  They apply the technological advancements to push boundaries and improve products and services then charge consumers a price for their innovations which is commensurate with the perceived improved quality or enhanced consumer experience.  Ergo, the evolution of the “CD Collection.”

Discovery of  the Internet results in “compressed” MP3 Collections 

With the advent of the “Internet Super Highway” came entirely new possibilities and streamed MP3 music files emerged.  But “streaming” was in its infancy at the time and the music files had to be “compressed” significantly to reach the consumer.  [These same streaming limitations are what delayed the Internet’s effect on Motion Pictures as the size of movie files was too large to stream.] That “compression” technically meant consumers would not hear all of the recorded performance but they’d hear just enough to be satiated to justify both the convenience of “compressing” their CD Collections into tiny MP3 files which all fit into a handheld-sized device called an iPod.

The REAL Cost of Compressed MP3 Files – Missing Out on Audio HD

However, the real cost of this technologically-driven convenience was them missing a masterful performance by an “artist” like Neil Young, who recorded it in its entirety including every possible sound “byte” to elicit a brain-pleasing, emotional-participatory musical experience.  True artists like Mr. Young were perturbed that their formidable contributions to an art form were being converted to relative tiny MP3s which then became just a part of different aisles in “virtual music stores.” But streaming capabilities were not then capable of streaming High Definition NetFlix movies like they are now in 2014.  So, just like with the initial allure of CDs, consumers did not notice a trade-off between the Jetsons-like convenience of shopping at the iTunes, K-mart and Target MP3 stores.  Then virtual stores like iTunes superseded niche retail chain stores such as Tower Records, Sam Goody, FYE and Suncoast, each of whom were dangerously solely dependent on the sales of CDs.

In the process of vaporizing these long-standing businesses, iTunes thrived while Hollywood romanticized the passing of the local “record store” in the 2000 “dramedy” homage, “High Fidelity,” starring John Cusack, Jack Black, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tim Robbins.  The pervasive presence of “virtual stores” so radically changed global economic storefronts that the term “brick and mortar” was then invented to differentiate between the two.

Significantly improved Streaming capabilities breeds Audiophiles & the creation of  Audio High Definition

Cut to 2014 and the current unpredictable but overwhelming streaming success of NetFlix high definition movies becomes the impetus for Mr. Neil Young to gain back his art form contributions and then distribute them at the high quality they were made to be listened to so that listeners could hear ALL that he recorded in “Audio High Definition.”  Since the only limitation in the past was the size of the streamed file, Neil Young and his audiophile brethren seem to have created yet another music format “Collection” to pursue for a new generation of music fans.   To ensure consumers have a High Definition Player to listen to the Audio High Definition recordings of his performances [which are much larger files to transmit and play because each song file contains significantly more sound bytes than an MP3 file of the same song], Neil Young crafted one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns with his idea for the PONO player.

From 8-Track to Album to CD to MP3 to Audio HD Collections

There are now virtual stores which sell Audio High Definition recordings and just like when the consumer jumped from records to CDs, then CDs to MP3 files, there are consumers re-purchasing their Album and CD Collections in this supposed “purest” of audio formats.  Accordingly, just like with the creation or enhancement of other products or services due to technological advancements, some entrepreneurs have figured out how to utilize the new technology to pair convenience with enhanced quality and they charge a premium for it.

In short, this is how the music industry has been transformed by technology and the only constant has been “Buyer Beware” at every single, seemingly, “innovation,” which was just “consumer convenience” sold as “progress” when nothing could be further from the truth as revealed by the soon to be new music format craved by music fans, namely, Audio High Definition recordings

Now, mHealth [mobile health] transforms Healthcare

Healthcare now faces the nascent technological transformation which the music industry survived. It extends to Healthcare’s delivery, quality, cost and access, and affects its healthcare professionals, patients, institutions and insurers.   In that regard, and from the Patient Perspective, becoming an ePatient was just as necessary in 2010, as adapting to CDs was for teenagers all over the world in the early 1980s.  In 2014, however, it is now necessary for patients, especially those with chronic diseases, to master the capabilities afforded to ePatients by mHealth platforms, services and devices because with Smartphones being so adaptable to any medical or hospital patient’s conceivable need or want, smart entrepreneurs have finally gravitated to this current opportunistic time in Healthcare.  However, many of these same entrepreneurs are also gravitating to physicians, institutions and health insurers to do the same for them via mHealth initiatives.

My concern is that mHealth innovations which facilitate patient care could enable physicians, clinics and hospitals to treat more patients [which is good] and make more money via this new revenue stream [which is none of my business] but possibly all at the expense of existing patients like me [my primary concern].    

May be a Stretch but ePatients must watch mHealth innovations carefully

To that end, chronic patients MUST stay up-to-date on mHealth innovations to both take advantage of the mHealth initiatives which help them and to be aware of the ones in which they passively help create new revenue streams for doctors, pharmacists, hospitals and insurers possibly to the detriment of their quality of healthcare.  That said, I believe these healthcare professionals deserve to make more money and they should pursue any and all available revenue streams created by technology and mHealth.  In my humble opinion, their continued dedication to the practice of medicine and to the welfare of their patients, despite enduring modern-day times of economic unfairness and uncertainty in the healthcare industry, entitles them to do so.  I just don’t want to see my healthcare compromised in any way, shape or form during any such process.

Conclusion

Analogous to what happened when technology transformed the music industry, I don’t want to be lulled in by mHealth “convenience initiatives” which are mendaciously disguised as “innovations” to the impairment of my healthcare quality or access.

Ever since being diagnosed with the autoimmune illness, Crohn’s Disease, in 1984, like music great Joe Walsh, I’m an “Analog Man.”  In mHealth and healthcare jargon, this means I can’t afford to lose the genuine personal interactions I’ve had with kind and compassionate healthcare professionals who’ve helped me move forward in life despite frequent, unpredictable medical adversity involving various body parts and systems.

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