Tuesday 11 April 2017

Your Doctor doesn't care about your Fitbit data

If you're like millions of people with a Fitbit, Garmin, Withings or other consumer personal health device you already know: your doctor doesn't care how many steps you take daily, or your weight scale readings, your sleep cycle data or any number of other quantitative measures you may have on your health/fitness devices. Your family doctor isn't going to check your stats...ever. What does all this personal health data really mean?
To the individual it's a means of keeping track. A way to check progress and yes, hopefully improve your health. You may share it with a spouse or workout partner. Likely it wouldn't go much farther then that. Its personal data and its very temporal. Will you even care about it next month? or next year? Likely not.
What your family physician does care about is that you are keeping active, staying fit, losing or sometime gaining weight, sleeping well etc. The general stuff, they don't need or even care to see the numbers from your devices. Of course they do care that your are taking your medications as prescribed and following up on any referrals and test requested. Even this, your family physician can't and wouldn't do much about what they can't control.
If you doctor writes a prescription for you they leave it to you to select a pharmacy to fill the prescription and trusts you to follow the instructions and take the med as directed. Unless you or the pharmacy notify the doctor they have no way of knowing even if you filled the prescription let along when you started and if you are taking the medication as directed. Adherence to prescriptions is major determinant of health and its left primarily to you, the patient.
Lets say your doctor gives you a lab requisition, unless they have a lab in their office you will likely need to make arrangements to get the blood work or other fluids tested. The doctor will receive the results and then will make arrangements to review the results with you at future appointment. Of course if the results don't show anything you doctor may not even bother conveying the results to you. If you don't ask you may not even know that anyone looked at the results. If you don't bother or forget to setup a lab appointment your doctor has no way of knowing if you did the test. Rarely do you have a followup to a lab requisition or reminder to make the appointment, unless your doctor's office team is well managed and disciplined to perform such followup.
When you receive a referral to a specialist there is usually not much more then a call between your doctor's office and the specialists. And unless your doctor's staff makes the appointment for you, you are responsible for setting up and going to see the specialist yourself. What is transferred between the doctors offices is usually very minimal. And more often then not your specialist wouldn't know much about you health information than what is written on the referral itself. You are responsible for informing the specialist when you go to the appointment. Bring your prescriptions and any lab results you have because more then likely your family doctor wouldn't send them ahead of time. And of course the specialist will likely order their own test.
Your doctor's office staff is the primary point of contact for you and the doctor. They set appointments, follow-ups and help navigate you through the process and general communicate between you and your doctor. From referrals to medications and lab results it is the office staff that supports the doctor. Your patient experience is determined by the doctor's office staff. While the office staff works for the doctor they are your best source of information and help.
This of course is normal health related experience with your doctor. Now consider what happens if you have a serious or chronic condition. Your personal daily fitness data; eating, exercise and sleep data becomes much more meaningful and useful for you and you entire care team. I use the term care team because with a serious condition it much more likely that your family doctor wouldn't be sufficient, you'll likely have specialist and depending on the nature of the condition nurses, therapists even non-medical care. And of-course your family members will become caregivers as well.
This is when your personal health data becomes critical.

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