How Mobile Health Can Revolutionize the Patient-Doctor Relationship


Last week, New York Times columnist Dr. Pauline Chen wrote an articleLetting Patients Read the Doctor’s Notes about the OpenNotes study, which found that patients and doctors reported overall positive experiences when patients were invited to review their doctors’ notes.


Giving patients easy access to their physicians’ notes is one step forward in greater transparency. With chronic disease and lifestyle-related illness consuming an ever-greater share of healthcare resources, however, we should aim higher though if we want to radically change the patient-doctor relationship, and health care in general. We need to move towards encouraging a fully participatory and collaborative interaction. Mobile health apps and interfaces offer some of the tools for fostering these interactions.


Recently, I took part in Project Health Design’s webinar, “From the iPhone to the EMR: Can patients’ personal health data help improve their clinical care? As part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio, Project Health Design is “designed to spark innovation in personal health technology.”


During the webinar, presenters shared exciting findings from five of Project Health Design’s most recent projects. Each of these projects is focused on using apps or web interfaces to integrate patients’ observations of daily living (ODLs) into clinical care personal health decisions, and the health records of patients with chronic illness. The thinking behind these projects is similar to Tech UrSelf’s vision in creating an app, urWell, that allows people to record observations of daily living and correlate those variables with their wellness.


The five Project Health Design projects discussed in the webinar tackled a range of health concerns from asthma to obesity:

  • The BreathEasy project designed a mobile app that allowed patients to record information like their use of medications, symptoms, quality of life, and smoking. The project also employed a web-based dashboard to help clinicians visualize and analyze patients’ data, evaluate their status, and communicate treatment changes or other recommendations.
  • The Chronology.MD project allows young adults with Chron’s disease to create a “visual narrative of their condition and treatment” and track their pain, energy, and clinical symptoms using iPads and other mobile devices and share this information with health provider.
  • The dwellSense project employs in-home sensor technologies to monitor the daily routines of adults who are risk of cognitive decline such as whether they make coffee every morning or place regular phone calls to assess the patient’s functionality and provide more appropriate treatment.
  • The Estrellita project used a mobile app to collect daily observations about high-risk infants such as fussiness, diapering, and weight as well as data about the baby’s caregiver such as stress levels and risk for post-partum depression.  Caregivers and health care providers could then use this data to better care for the infants.
  • Through the iN Touch project low-income, obese teens used a mobile app to track observations about their own physical activity, food intake, socialization, and mood and share it with their health coaches and clinical care teams. These teams could then work with the young people to collaboratively to set health goals, and track progress.


Each of these projects is tackling a different health challenge and involving patients in different ways, but all them are realizing the tremendous potential of mobile technologies to capture daily data about patients’ habits and well-being. By involving patients in creating their health record and personal health data, the health record becomes a participatory and shared document. When created through an open web or mobile interface, it is also more easily accessed by multiple clinicians, researchers, or thepatients, themselves. More than an email reminder inviting you to review your medical record, these projects are going to revolutionize the patient-doctor relationship and the place of your mobile phone and your computer in that relationship.


To learn more about Project Health Design’s work visit their website or follow them on twitter @PrjHealthDesign.


This blog was originally published on the Tech urSelf blog.