By the first quarter of next year, it also could include a variety of pilot projects to interact with patients and consumers in such areas as obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease and asthma. For example, the clinic might look at ways to reach obese patients and “stimulate their interest” in better diet and exercise, said Dr. John Wald, the clinic’s medical director for public affairs. That interaction will come via the iWatch or other remote-monitoring devices.
“We will see what the iWatch brings from the remote-monitoring perspective. I think the iWatch is one tool to begin to remotely monitor these patients,” Wald said.
Some remain skeptical about the potential for the broad category of wearable devices that monitor consumer health. For example, a January 2014 report (PDF) from consultancy Endeavour Partners noted that the “dirty little secret” of already available wearables was that half of buyers stopped using the gadgets after two years.
“Users quickly abandon wearables that don’t help them make positive changes,” particularly through inducing behavioral change, the report noted.
Dr. Aaron Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, ranks among the skeptics. A research project he had done that involved glucometers inserted into cellphones for use by teenagers with diabetes prompted his skepticism.
Users were supposed to take their blood glucose level readings and text information to their doctors.
But problems quickly arose. Sometimes the data was bad, and it became hard to differentiate between incorrect readings and correct ones. Or users would forget to send their readings or simply stop sending them.
“I’m skeptical that collecting tons and tons of data and putting it in front of physicians is magically going to change the quality of the U.S. healthcare system,” Carroll said.
Mayo’s Wald responded that “we’re in the very first stages of understanding how we interact remotely with patients,” and more effort is needed.
Mayo plans to “make sure we have some mechanism of consistently validating the devices that allow us to remotely monitor patients, to make sure first and foremost that the data we’re receiving is accurate.”
Second, Wald said he felt Apple’s HealthKit app will allow users to define what will be relevant data to the patient.
“I personally believe it will be up to providers and … users of digital to find what fits best,” he said.
With those caveats in mind, Wald said the collaboration with Apple will be helpful for the clinic. “As the exchanges and narrow networks come to fruition, patients and consumers are going to be a lot more savvy about their healthcare choices,” he said. “Interacting with Apple allows us to reach those consumers and patients in a different way than we have.”
Follow Darius Tahir on Twitter: @dariustahir