UR Due 4 Rx Refill

September 10, 2010

For those of you who don’t speak “text-ese,” this is a friendly reminder that it is time to head to the pharmacy for a refill of that prescription you’ve been taking …and the way more and more of your patients prefer to receive this message.

For those of you who don’t speak “text-ese,” this is a friendly reminder that it is time to head to the pharmacy for a refill of that prescription you’ve been taking …and the way more and more of your patients prefer to receive this message.

A new study and report by PricewaterhouseCoopers finds that 40 percent of consumers said they would pay for an application and a monthly subscription fee on their mobile/smart phone that sends them text message and e-mail reminders regarding medications, prescription refills, or access to their own medical records. Twenty-seven percent said they would find these mobile reminders helpful and men were twice as likely as women to say they would use such devices for health-related messages. And they want this information from you - their doctor - not their insurance company.

The survey also explored the use of mobile devices to track personal health, like weight, blood sugar levels, and vital signs. Forty percent said they would pay for such devices themselves.

The report was released at a major “mobile health” event in California, exploring the ways wireless technology, remote monitoring, and other devices are changing healthcare. The goal, according to mobile health advocates, is to use technology to reduce healthcare costs while increasing patient awareness of their own health.

The mobile health trend is growing and gaining steam, apparently not by patients alone, but also physicians, according to the study.

PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 57 percent of docs would like to use remote devices to monitor patients outside of their hospital or office. Furthermore, 40 percent of physicians said they could trim office visits by 11 to 30 percent by using technologies including text messaging and e-mail.

The study points out several barriers to the expansion of mobile health, from little buy-in from public payers and private insurers, to how to bill for such services when in-person visits drive reimbursement. In our recent 2010 Technology Survey, we asked you about your use of e-mail, and 34 percent of you said reimbursement issues are a top obstacle.

But patients are saying, according to this study, that they would take out their wallet to download an app to their iPhone, Blackberry or other device, and additionally, pay a fee for the service as well. That has to raise some eyebrows.

Post-healthcare reform, America is expecting a flood of new patients to visit physicians’ offices and hospitals nationwide seeking care. The fear over “not enough docs” is a real one, seeing as the majority of U.S. states can’t seem to recruit primary care physicians, with specialties continuing to draw new med school graduates.

What if healthcare embraced mobile health more fully, targeting the texting generation who responds faster to a Tweet or a Facebook status update than they do a phone call? Isn’t this an efficient way to communicate with patients for basic messages? Think of all the phone calls and mailings that could be saved by a text message or e-mail.

Now I know this will not be popular with some and I am not saying that an iPhone is better than a visit with a physician. I’m saying it may be more effective in some cases. Now I have my own doubts about mobile health - again, you need to have tech-savvy people on both ends of the line - but if patients are asking for it, isn’t it time to respond to that call…or text…or e-mail?