Mrs. X is a 46-year-old mother of two and wife to an Iraq war veteran. On this particular day, she meets with her oncologist to follow up after treatment for skin cancer. Beyond her well-groomed hair, thick plastic-framed glasses and coral-red manicured toes, she doesn’t have a clear agenda for her appointment, and expectations have only been vaguely outlined. However, this will change.

Wired Magazine asked Mucca Design in 2010 to re-imagine the blood test report, and the result was an inspiring new way of communicating with patient. The year 2011 marked the launch of the Tricoder X-Prize, worth $10 million, supported by X-Prize Foundation and Qualcomm. The goal is to bring to life the fictional Star Trek multifunctional handheld medical device that can scan, analyze and produce results with a goal to diagnose patients better than or equal to a panel of board certified physicians. And while 2012 launched a series of new medical innovations that leverage the power of the mobile device, 2013 will be a time to bring together these technologies into a web of interconnectedness.

In 2013, Mrs. X and her mobile device will have access to a digital medical record that gives access to prior appointment notes, recorded videos from remote mobile appointments with her team of physicians, and yesterday’s blood work results. New innovations in medicine will create a foundation for Mrs. X to have better access to care, translate her behavior into actionable data all being tied together to provide what is most important: validation.

The gaming industry is a perfect example, validating users from the moment they begin playing. Users are shown that they are needed and thrive when they can contribute. Harnessing these technologies into health care and implementation of a medical game theory can empower patients to play a more proactive role in their own health care, the goal being to keep patients engaged by constantly being the thread between compliance and improved health not missions and badges.

By the time the data arrives to a physician’s office, diagnoses and treatment plans have already been outlined. When Mrs. X sees her physician now, their role is to reinforce what the up-to-date information being collected by Mrs. X’s devices have shown about her health. It’s the new way of understanding data that needs to be fashionably delivered to a patient who can look at the handout and understand the clear implications of their disease. Mrs. X in this world will play an active, not passive, role in making the decisions about her own health.

Empowered patients can now take ownership of their health, to be proactive given the vast amount of available resources. Concurrently, the role of the health care provider will continue to shift to effectively provide personalized health care. The combination of these two changes will thus provide greater reinforcement for behaviorally changes by increasing compliance through creating goals and providing validation. Validation in much the same way playing Xbox’s Halo keeps users engaged by constantly challenging and rewarding.

Reinventing health care begins with allowing patients to be part of the decision making process, as lab results become more meaningful than a set of numbers that can either fall below, above or in between the normal range. For Mrs. X, her knowledge about her hemoglobin and hematocrit are just as important as knowing whether or not to fuel her car with unleaded or diesel.

A physician also benefits from this new paradigm we are preparing for. Communication through platforms that allow the free flow of information securely such as chat/video or behavior monitoring can allow a physician to spend less time with collecting preceding information about a patient and more time with actually touching and feeling a patient, speaking to them and creating an intimate connection. An intimacy that had once been the fundamental key in allowing physicians to access their patients and gain their trust.

By 2014, the rate-limiting step is no longer whether or not we can screen for cancer using a mobile device or if meaningful data can help patients more engaged in their own health. Rather, the real barrier will be how quickly we can adopt innovative technologies into our health care system. Tools that improve patient care decrease inefficiencies and provide validation to both patients and physicians.

This post initially appeared in The Health Care Blog.

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