Back when Twitter first exploded into the national consciousness and I was at a different job, we had a grand old time making fun of the concept.
We weren’t alone in having an initial skepticism that there was much use for a social media blast that was just 140 characters long and had a ridiculous-sounding name.
But once we started using Twitter and learning about how reporters, editors and health care practitioners could and were productively reading and sending tweets, the jokes and the snickering dwindled and then stopped.
That’s a big reason why I downloaded Snapchat last week. Snapchat never seemed that useful to me, and it may fade into oblivion. But because of its popularity with family members as young as nine and as old as 82, I would like to see what the attraction is, and the best way do that is by using it.
Learning by doing also is part of the strategy behind the launch of HealtheConnect, a mHealth-focused, Apple Genius Bar-like store at Morristown (N.J.) Medical Center, part of Atlantic Health System, which was named Most Wired in 2014.
Officials at Morristown observed that some patients were getting ahead of their providers in terms of knowing what was happening with apps and mHealth, says David Shulkin, M.D., president of the hospital.
“There was a growing disconnect between the knowledge base of sophisticated consumers and the knowledge base of health care professionals,” Shulkin says.
“In my career, when I’ve seen this gap develop, I always think its better to jump in and participate, and learn along with your patients as it’s happening,” he says.
The medical center’s mobile health store can fill app “prescriptions” written by its providers, offer assistance in using the apps, and also give recommendations directly. HealtheConnect staffers are selling a decent amount of wearable devices, Shulkin says.
Morristown is not the first to launch a technology “bar” and may not even be the second. The one other we’ve written about is Ochsner Health System’s O Bar, a technology store running at its flagship primary care site that was featured on H&HN’s cover in July.
Since opening in June, the O Bar serves 10-20 people a day, some for just a few minutes and others for as long as an hour, says Braden Lemon, the technology sales associate who runs the day-to-day operations. Lemon says the O Bar gets regular customer flow from providers using its version of a faux app prescription, and he expects volume to grow even more as more people become aware of its existence.
Does a hospital need a Genius Bar-like service? Who knows? Maybe some other approach would work better. But as my colleague Matthew Weinstock put it a few weeks ago, “mHealth is more than a passing fad.” Patients, including the large numbers of boomers who are being added to the Medicare rolls, are going to expect health care to do more with mobile technology, according to Devin Gross, chief executive officer for Emmi Solutions. “Baby boomers are increasingly going to go online and they’re going to expect — just like in other industries — [that] whatever they see on a desktop be available on mobile,” says Gross, who was speaking to me for H&HN’s Boomer Challenge series.
Hospitals that don’t keep ahead of their patients in terms of mHealth are at risk of losing them to a hospital that is able to offer educated help on and productively use mobile health technology as it develops.