Some app developers know more about our health than our doctors do. Take, for instance, FitBit, which is attached to our wrist and measuring in real time our temperature, our heart rate, our steps and whether we have had enough exercise for our age in a day.
Consumers are providing highly sensitive health information to app developers without a second thought. Millions and millions of health apps are downloaded by individuals for convenience so they can get immediate feedback on a specific data point. For some reason, individuals do not like their neighbors to know about certain things, but they have no problem with sharing intimate details with random app developers.
The paradigm must be shifted so consumers get the benefit of the newest technology, treatment is more convenient for patients, real-time data are being used for diagnostic purposes to provide the highest quality patient care possible, and the massive amount of information that consumers are freely giving to private companies could be used for population health, instead of the years and years it takes for Institutional Review Boards and research studies to get through the system. We need to figure out how to leverage technology and consumer convenience to drive research and outcomes. The medical community is getting left behind because consumers want answers in real time, are used to getting what they want in real time, and will bypass the medical community if it can’t provide that convenience and value in real time. Consumers’ behavior with health apps is instructive on how to engage patients for their own treatment and for research purposes. The paradigm is shifting, and looking at how consumers are behaving with health apps will shape how medical treatment is, and should be, provided in the future.