Congressman Chaffetz: iPhones are the future of medicine

Recently, Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz made comments concerning health care reform that illustrates  just how out of touch Congress is with modern medicine. In a press conference addressing the ongoing debate over Obamacare repeal, he stated that Americans should make a choice between purchasing health insurance and an iPhone — in the Congressman’s own words “rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love … Americans should invest … in their own health care.” As expected, Chaffetz was met with sharp criticism for comparing the cost of a phone to the cost of health care.

However, I think that most everyone missed the real fallacy in his statement — iPhones and other mobile devices can be a real asset to managing chronic disease and are now beginning to be an integral part of health care. Representative Chaffetz should learn more about health care before he and his colleagues begin to try to create sweeping reform. For instance — ask doctors and patients what is most important to them and work with us to create meaningful reform. Statements such as the iPhone comments demonstrate just how little Congress knows about the nuts and bolts of health care.

The digital revolution in health care: Improving outcomes and cutting costs

Engaging patients in their care through individual accountability — a sentiment that Representative Chaffetz got right (in a roundabout way) — has been shown to improve outcomes. When patients actively participate in their own health care and understand the goals of therapy, they tend to experience fewer hospitalizations and fewer complications related to their chronic diseases. Fewer hospitalizations and fewer complications result in much lower health care costs.

Physicians are now prescribing apps for tracking blood pressure, activity, heart rate and blood pressure — just to name a few. Other applications such as MyRx Profile are being used to help patients monitor for adverse drug interactions — a leading cause of emergency room visits in patients over the age of 65. All of these applications can potentially help patients and physicians focus on prevention — ultimately saving health care dollars. New devices are being created every single day to incorporate smartphones into collecting important medical and biologic data. For example, the AliveCor device allows patients to get a real time electrocardiogram (EKG) simply by touching their fingertips to an electrode that is installed on their smartphone — often obviating the need for an ER visit or hospitalization. Apple’s HealthKit is now being used to help encourage medical app development and to collect important health and wellness data. In addition, Apple’s ResearchKit is being used for important groundbreaking medical research by several leading academic medical centers across the United States. Patients are more Internet-savvy and many come well prepared to office visits armed with information obtained from the internet. According to the Pew research center, nearly 75 percent of all patients go to the internet either before or after a visit with their health care provider. These patients — now called “e-patients” are well connected, well informed and digitally proficient in the health care space.

So Representative Chaffetz, learn from doctors and patients: iPhones are a part of health care.

It is my hope that Congress — both Republicans and Democrats–will stop the fighting and political posturing and do their jobs. They must stop grandstanding and making daily speeches aimed at providing sound bites and creating a media buzz. Everyone in Congress must work together to create legislation that will provide high quality, affordable and accessible health care for all Americans. There is no longer any place for comments such as those from Chaffetz and his colleagues in a discussion of meaningful reform. We must embrace technology and promote its use among our patients. As doctors become increasingly overwhelmed by paperwork and other mandated clerical activities, it is essential that we continue to develop digital tools to assist and engage patients in the management of their diseases. So, in my view, you should be able to have your health care — and your iPhone too!

Kevin R. Campbell is a cardiac electrophysiologist who blogs at his self-titled site, Dr. Kevin R. Campbell, MD. He is the author of Women and Cardiovascular Disease.

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