Are Healthcare Consumers at the Forefront of Digital Health?

Friday, March 21, 2014 12:03

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA and Ben Heubl

Simply put, healthcare is about the patient. Healthcare is a multidisciplinary team approach and patients are at the center of healthcare.

The urge to understand healthcare and medicine from the perspective of the patient, or consumer, is something that even key stockholders fail to understand, writes David Shaywitz in a Forbes piece. The author refers to an article from The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) “What Patients Really Want From Health Care” by Allan S. Detsky, MD, PhD.

Image Access - Healthin30 ID-10069354 Post Are Consumers at the Forefront of Digital Technology

What Patients Want: Access to services in a timely fashion

According to the article, what patients want most is to restore their health when they are ill. Simply, they want to get better, and the primary focus is to relieve illness and symptoms rather than focus on prevention. They want access to services in a timely fashion, and they want to have hope and be offered options that might help them. Patients want continuity of care. They want to build relationships and partner with their providers. They want a private room with their own bathroom, and to they want to pay as little as possible from their own out-of-pocket expenses. Patients want highly qualified clinicians and the best physicians.

Healthcare Innovation-Patients at the center

Understanding what patients want from healthcare is a central theme of healthcare innovation. The landscape of healthcare is rapidly changing with the rise of digital and wireless technology. Having access to healthcare is essential. Latest developments in technology and digital health in the United States and Europe could mean that consumer health is transforming into ‘shopping’ for health access.

Dr. Mohit Misra, Project Lead, London Health Commission, said to Heubl, co-author of this post, that he aims to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), among them consumer facing innovation concepts, to establish and scale in London. He emphasizes that improving access for patients is vital everywhere, and technology needs to be leveraged to do so.

Digital Health and the consumer

Consumer healthcare has expanded into the digital world. Digital Health defined by Paul Sonnier, curator of the Digital Health Group on Linked with more than 24,000 members to date, as the convergence of the digital and genetics revolutions with health and healthcare. Next to increase empowerment for our own health, it also helps to reduce inefficiencies in healthcare delivery, improve access, reduce costs, increase quality, and make medicine more personalized and precise.

Precise and personalized medicine is important to healthcare consumers. And as we mentioned earlier, consumers want to receive access to care in a timely fashion. Dr. Misra stated to Hebul that good access is about being able to get the right medical advice when you need it urgently, but also having more choices about when and how you see your doctor or medical professional for more routine follow ups is important.

Digital technology helps to empower and engage consumers to take charge of their health, and it fosters consumers to be active participants in their healthcare. Digital health introduced into the vast marketplaces for consumers is redefining the term consumer healthcare. Digital health access gives you personalized information based on data the consumer enters. Digital health includes an ecosystem of solutions outside of established healthcare systems.

Health Access 2.0 – EU learns from the US

According to Pew Research, 72% of internet users in the US say they have looked online for health information in the past year. But healthcare can really learn from the travel, retail and financial services industries where digital access improved their ecosystems, said Lloyd Price, co-founder of Zesty, an online healthcare appointment service in London.

The US traditionally has been strong in marketing healthcare to its consumers – and now, it seems, healthcare access innovation is to follow. MobiHealthNews reported that the US consumer-facing Digital Health SME sector is worth $3.6 billion with 270 patient-facing digital health companies.

Companies like ZocDoc, Practice Fusion, iTriage, Aetna’s App, AskMD* and the health system Kaiser Permanente now provides healthcare faster and gives choices and responsibility back to the consumer. Effectively, some of these digital health concepts now offer precisely what Dr. Detsky described. Quick, timely and convenient access to healthcare is at the top of the list. That is where we have seen the biggest successes for digital health. [*Full Disclosure: Ficarra is on the Advisory Board of Sharecare.]

ZocDoc, for instance, announced its plans to expand nationwide. Companies like Keldoc in France, Dottori in Italy, and other companies in Sweden and Germany, are reinventing consumer health by making access to appointments a consumer play.

In the US, one company that clearly understands consumer healthcare is Kaiser Permanente. Ravi Poorsina, Communications Manager at Kaiser Permanente said to  Heubl, in an email, that KP believes that by providing patients 24/7 online access with critical time-saving features, it empowers members and supports their ability to better manage their care. Poorsina said by developing KPs ‘My Health Manager’ and its mobile version, they provide members easy and convenient access to all of the health information and tools they need to manage their health and connect with their care providers.  Including online appointment scheduling, prescription refill, secure e-mail messaging with care providers, and access to test results. Poorsina said, Kaiser Permanente has more than 4.4 million members registered for ‘My Health Manager’, and in 2013 the platform refilled 14.8 million prescriptions and scheduled 3.7 million appointments.

In the UK, the leading online healthcare appointment service Zesty* is changing how the public search and books healthcare appointments. Zesty for example has proved that one small tech startup can improve the public and private healthcare market altogether. Zesty helps thousands of patients in London every month to book NHS and private healthcare appointments on their laptops, tablets and smartphones in less than 60 seconds, said Lloyd Price, COO and Co-founder of Zesty. [Full Disclosure: Heubl is on the Advisory Board of Zesty]

Future of digital health emerges

As the future of digital health emerges, we see the healthcare ecosystem change significantly. Digital health access solutions are perfectly positioned to be the catalyst for change and improvement in the ecosystem, said Price. Price believes that any of these companies that will market new health access solutions will be private players. First trialing and offering new health services outside of the system. These companies will also quickly figure out how to brand and market these services to consumers, said Price.

The future for consumer health is unwritten. Access to healthcare needs to become more consumer friendly. With the latest market and technology developments, both in the UK and US, the industry is heading in the right direction as long as they keep the patient front and center.

Your turn

Do you feel that consumers are at the forefront of digital health? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. As always thank you for your valuable time.

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 TEDMED Great Challenges-Medical Communication-Barbara Ficarra

About Co-Author Ben Heubl

Ben Heubl Co-Author

Ben Heubl

Ben Heubl is a digital health advocate, activist and journalist for Health 2.0 innovation. Heubl is speaker at various healthcare innovation conferences and events, a TEDMED delegate, founded the non-for-profit organization Health 2.0 Copenhagen, mentor at the HealthXL accelerator, and writes for various online magazines in the context of digital health innovation and technology. Heubl currently supports a UK health innovation SME to change how citizens access healthcare. You can follow him on Twitter. (@benheubl)





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Twitter Heart Chat: Sharecare and American Heart Association

Thursday, February 20, 2014 10:59

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

Twitter Chats are a powerful way to share valuable information in real-time.  Sharecare and the American Heart Association partner to host a Twitter Chat on Heart Health.

Please join the Twitter Chat today, February 20, 2014 from 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. EST, and use the Hashtag #HeartChat.

Twitter Chat Sharecare American Heart Healthin30 Barbara Ficarra

In support of the 50th anniversary of American Heart Month, the American Heart Association (AHA) and Sharecare, the online health and wellness engagement platform founded by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Jeff Arnold, together are proud to host a Twitter chat to answer users’ questions about heart health. As the number one and number four respective causes of death in the U.S., heart disease and stroke claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined.

“On average, every 40 seconds, an American dies of cardiovascular disease or has a stroke making them the leading causes of death and disability in the United States,” said Dr. Mariell Jessup, president of the American Heart Association. “Educating people about how they can reduce their risk is literally a matter of life and death, and our #HeartChat with Sharecare has the potential to help millions of people get the information they need to fight heart disease and stroke.”

Twitter Chat Sharecare and American Heart Experts 1 Healthin30 Barbara Ficarra

Twitter Chat Sharecare and American Heart Experts 2 Healthin30 Barbara Ficarra

Scheduled for Thursday, February 20, from 12 pm to 3 pm EST, the Twitter chat will focus on living with heart disease and stroke; learning how to live healthy and reduce your risks; and the new heart disease and stroke prevention guidelines released last November. During #HeartChat, Dr. Jessup, also Medical Director of the Heart and Vascular Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, will be joined by the following experts from the AHA and the American Stroke Association (ASA) to answer users’ questions:

  •     Dr. Clyde Yancy, AHA past president and Magerstadt Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Cardiology at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine
  •     Dr. Rachel Johnson, AHA Nutrition Committee chair and Robert L. Bickford, Jr. Green and Gold Professor of Nutrition and Professor of Medicine at the University of Vermont
  •     Dr. Demetrius Lopes, national ASA spokesperson and Director of Neuroendovascular Surgery at Rush Hospital, Chicago
  •     Dr. Mary Ann Bauman, national AHA spokesperson and Medical Director for Women’s Health Community Relations at INTEGRIS Health, Inc., Oklahoma City

Cardiologists from select Sharecare hospital partners also will take part in Thursday’s chat, including AHA past president Dr. Gordon Tomaselli from Johns Hopkins Medicine; Dr. Tamara Horwich from UCLA Health; and Dr. Michael Emery from Greenville Health System.

Additionally, members of Sharecare’s Advisory Board will lend their expertise during the three-hour #HeartChat, including:

  • Dr. Randy P. Martin, Chief of the Structural and Valvular Center of Excellence at the Piedmont Heart Institute in Atlanta, and Physician Principal Advisor of Educational Programs at the Marcus Heart Valve Center: @DrRandyMartin1
  • Barbara Ficarra, RN, health educator and founder of @barbaraficarra
  • Patricia Geraghty, RN, nurse practitioner and Adjunct Clinical Faculty at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif.: @PattyGeraghty
  • Dr. Robin Miller, medical director at Triune Integrative Medicine in Medford, Ore.: @RMillerMD

As a registered nurse, health educator and Advisory Board Member at Sharecare, I’m delighted to participate in this #HeartChat. I hope you’ll be able to join us.

Dr. Mehmet Oz will also be joining the #HeartChat Twitter event.

[Source: News Release Sharecare-Atlanta, February 18, 2014]

Virtual Summit to Empower Caregivers

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 8:31

Please join us today, February 11, 2014 for a virtual summit for caregivers.

Impact80 Virtual Summit is the first global conference, to be held online with 1 goal in mind – to support and reach as many women & men who work full or part-time while caring for a sick, disabled child or aging parent. Impact80 Summit will provide caregivers with mental health, caregiving, patient engagement resources, tips and information they need.

Goldina Erowele, PharmD, RPh, is a caregiver, clinical pharmacist, editor-in-chief of the award nominated (SeniorHomes, WegoHealth & HealthLine) CareNovate Magazine for Caregivers and is the founder of Impact80 Summit.

 Barbara Ficarra Impact80Summit Speakers

The summit begins at 11 a.m. EST (10 a.m. CST and 8 a.m. PST) with opening remarks by Dr. Erowele.

Speakers and topics include:

How to keep your dreams alive while caring for others by Ozioma Egwuonwu, CEO | Founder | Inventor BurnBright International LLC, Inventor, Day for Dreamers
Twitter: @bblifeworks, @dayfordreamers

Supporting Caregiving in 2014 & Beyond. What You Need in Your Caregiving Toolbox by Denise Brown. Founder & Caregiving Coach, Twitter: @caregiving

Health Advocacy: 10 best tips for patient/caregiver engagement By Martine Ehrenclou, Founder, author, health care advocate, The Take Charge Patient Founder, Author, The Take Charge Patient. Twitter: @Med_writer

Mental Health Check Up for Caregivers. What Have you done for yourselves lately? By Dr Tanya Douglas-Holland, Physician, Founder,  Unplugged. Twitter: @DrTanyaMD

Impact of Health Care Social Media on Patient & Caregivers Engagement by Barbara Ficarra, RN, Journalist, Founder, Healthin30. Twitter: @barbaraficarra

The Conversation Project & end-of-life care. Kelley Connors, President, KC Health & Host of Real Women on Health

Top 10 Medication Safety Tips- Over The Counter Medications, Herbals and Prescriptions by Dr. Goldina Erowele

Impact80 Virtual Summit:

Use the hashtag = #Impact80



You may register using this link:

Join the Summit via this link

I hope you’ll be able to join the conversation. Thank you for your time.

Connect with me | Stay in touch

 TEDMED Great Challenges-Medical Communication-Barbara Ficarra



Sharecare Helps to Engage and Empower Consumers with Mobile Health App-AskMD

Thursday, December 12, 2013 13:51

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

Woman using smartphone for AskMD post on Healthin30

From digital to doctor with a click on your iPhone or iPod touch

Self-diagnosing is not a good idea, but arming yourself with accurate, credible and trustworthy information is a great idea.

It’s such an exciting time in health care today. Digital technology helps to empower and engage consumers to take charge of their health, and it fosters consumers to be active participants in their healthcare.

One way to become empowered is to research health information so you can arm yourself with necessary information you need. However, due to the massive amount of information flooding the web, searching for health information online can be confusing and overwhelming. Unfortunately, not all information is accurate; there is a plethora of inaccurate and misleading health information out there. If you’re like most of us, you have searched for health information online.

According to Pew Internet and American Life Project 72% of internet users say they have looked online for health information and 77% of online health seekers say they began their last session at a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. (Eight in ten online health inquiries start at a search engine.) Additionally, 85% of U.S. adults use the internet and 56% of U.S. adults own a smartphone.

A new mobile health app developed by Sharecare is more than a symptom checker.

AskMD Image Sharecare for Post Healthin30

If you’re an iPhone user, you can now let AskMD, an iOS free app, developed by Sharecare, give you the tools you need to easily obtain information about a health condition, and so much more.

Sharecare, a trusted source of health information, has been answering your health questions since its launch in October 2010. Founded by the brilliant Jeff Arnold (founder of WebMD) and Dr. Mehmet Oz, Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University, and Emmy-winning talk show host, Sharecare is a health and wellness social engagement platform connecting consumers with health information from national experts, interactive tools and local healthcare providers. [Full Disclosure: I’m a member of the Advisory Board and Health Educator at Sharecare.]

There are many health, medical and fitness apps flooding the market. According to Research2Guidance (March 2013), “currently there are 97,000 mHealth applications in major app stores…” How do consumers sort through the maze of apps to know which are reliable? One way is to make sure the app developers are a reputable source.

Sharecare is trusted name in health and it’s a highly regarded resource. Take a look here at Sharecare’s advisory board. Also, a few of the many partners include the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, Harvard Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Hopkins Medicine, American Heart Association, Mount Sinai Health Systems and AARP.

A Symptom Checker Plus So Much More

With AskMD, an app developed by a reputable source, gives you personalized information based on the data you enter. Not only is it a symptom checker, it’s a health management tool. It stores your health information, including medications, insurance information, and contact details for all your doctors and specialists.

Other symptom checkers may provide you with only general information about a health condition, but AskMD takes your experience further. It takes you beyond your digital encounter; it takes you through to the real-life doctor visit and arms you with valuable information to help you communicate clearly and succinctly with your doctor.

Initiated with voice activation, AskMD organizes information about your symptoms. You simply use your voice to initiate a series of questions relevant to your issues, including medications. The app uses Pattern Recognition Technology and matches your answers to a clinical platform and provides you with results specific to you.

Based on your medical needs, you will be directed to find a doctor or specialist based on a robust physician directory, The Little Blue Book, which Sharecare acquired in 2012. You will be given a list or area map filtered by insurance, specialty and distance. Directly from the app you can call to make an appointment. The user experience doesn’t end here.

Doctor/Patient Relationship

Once you complete your “consultation” you will be given a summary of your results with details which you can access, print or share from the app. This information will allow you to ask the right questions during your doctor’s visit. Not only does the app keep track of your health including height, weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and any known conditions; you can create multiple health profiles. That’s great news especially if you care for other members in your family.

Communication – Patient Engagement

Engaged, empowered and proactive consumers; that’s what health care is about. Having access to the right information at the right time can help empower you to communicate with your doctor and other health care providers. Communication and shared decision-making is a must in health care today.

Remember, prevention begins with you. Be proactive and in charge of your health.

Your turn
We would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below and if you’ve downloaded the AskMD app, we would love to know what you think. Share your experience with us. Also, you’re welcome to share your comments on the Healthin30 Facebook page as well.

As always, thank you for your very valuable time and thoughtful comments.

Life-Threatening Emergencies

Always call 9-1-1 if you experience a medical emergency such as chest pain or severe bleeding, severe shortness of breath, facial drooping or weakness in an arm or leg, suicidal or homicidal feelings, severe burns etc.

To find out when to call 9-1-1 and to see  a list of other life-threatening symptoms, please go to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

AskMD for iPhone® is available exclusively on the App Store. Download it now for FREE and let it take you right to your appointment.

AskMD iTunes



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 TEDMED Great Challenges-Medical Communication-Barbara Ficarra

Image courtesy of Ambro/


Brief Recap of Tweets for The Great American Smokeout

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 14:52

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

The Great American Smokeout Twitter Chat presented by Sharecare was ongoing spirited conversation for five hours filled with valuable information. The Hashtag #quitforgood led the chat. Every third Thursday in November The American Cancer Society marks the Great American Smokeout.

First, thank you to all the participants. Thank you to all the smokers who were involved in the conversation. Whether you recently quit smoking, were looking for information on how to quit smoking or you just wanted to quit for that one day, thank you. The American Cancer Society states, “By quitting — even for one day — smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life – one that can lead to reducing cancer risk.”

Secondly, below, please find a very small sample of Tweets from Otis Brawley, MD-American Cancer Society, CDC, Mount Sinai Hospital, and myself Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA, Editorial Advisory Board/Health Educator at Sharecare. For a complete list of the health experts who contributed, please click here.

Otis Brawley, MD, Chief Medical Officer for the

American Cancer Society

Twitter Chat The Great American Smokeout Otis Brawley for Healthin30 Post

American Cancer Society-Otis Brawley

  • #quitforgood nicotine is more addictive than cocaine. Do not risk the addiction
  • #quitforgood nicotine is as addictive as cocaine even 2 cig/day can also cause lung disease
  • #quitforgood 2nd hand smoke in childhood causes crib death, asthma, bronchitis and later can lead to lung cancer
  • #quitforgood Smokers should know risks and benefits of lung screening. There are risks. Make an informed decision.
  • #quitforgood flavored tobacco, menthol especially has been used to lure folks into smoking. Nicotine is then the handcuff of addiction
  • #quitforgood It is far easier for light to moderate smokers to quit. Heavy smokers need help from addiction specialists.
  • #quitforgood no data show ecigs help smokers quit.


 Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA, Health Educator, Editorial Advisory Board for Sharecare @BarbaraFicarra

Twitter Barbara Ficarra for Healthin30 Post

Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

  • Delighted 2 join #quitforgood @OtisBrawley @AmericanCancer @CDCgov @DrFriedenCDC @Sharecarenow @HopkinsMedicine @MountSinaiNYC @RMillerMD
  • Each year about 443,000 people die prematurely fr smoking or exposure 2 secondhand smoke #quitforgood
  • Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the US #quitforgood
  • It’s never too late to quit, but the sooner the better. You can do it! #quitforgood
  • Prevention is key-Must focus on preventing tobacco use among youth! #quitforgood
  • Per CDC Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body… #quitforgood
  • The cigarette industry spends billions ea year on advertising/promotions #quitforgood
  • When smokers quit, the risk for a heart attack drops sharply after just 1 year #quitforgood
  • When smokers quit, risk for dying of lung cancer drops by half after 10 years #quitforgood
  • Quitting gives your body a chance to heal the damage caused by smoking #quitforgood
  • Do you want to quit? Write down the reasons-Acknowledge-Take action! You can do it! @Sharecarenow Guide  #quitforgood
  • There’s a smoking quitline 1-800-QUIT-NOW 1-800-784-8669 #quitforgood
  • Be empowered and take charge of your health! You can do it! #quitforgood

 CDC Tobacco Free

Twitter Chat The Great American Smokeout CDC Tobacco Free for Healthin30 Post

CDC Tobacco Free

  • For most, it takes several attempts before succeeding at quitting smoking, but don’t give up trying to #QuitForGood.
  • More than 1/2 of Americans who have ever smoked have already quit & 70% of current smokers say they want to quit. You can #QuitForGood.
  • Tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of over 7,000 chemicals & compounds. Inhaling it causes short & long-term damage. #QuitForGood
  • Make a list of reasons for quitting. Keep handy & read it when you get the urge to smoke. #QuitForGood
  • The younger kids begin smoking, more likely to become addicted. Quit now, or better yet- don’t start. #QuitForGood
  • Tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of over 7,000 chemicals & compounds. Inhaling it causes short & long-term damage. #QuitForGood
  • Call quitline & speak to smoking cessation counselor who can provide advice, support, & help you make a plan. #QuitForGood
  • #Smokers are 2-4x more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease. Be heart-healthy & #QuitForGood

  Mount Sinai Hospital

Twitter Chat The Great American Smokeout Mount Sinai NYC for Healthin30 Post

Mount Sinai Hospital

  • It ages your face. Makes your teeth yellow & effects your entire body. #quitforgood
  • Ask to create smoke free environments at work & public places. Heart attacks decrease as soon as these bans are in place #quitforgood
  • Even if you’re not a smoker, you can still be at risk for #LungCancer. Assess your risk at @DrOz #quitforgood
  • The sooner you #QuitSmoking, the sooner your #HeartDisease risk will decline! Learn tips from Dr Myerson #quitforgood
  • Even if you’re not a smoker, you can still be at risk for #LungCancer. Assess your risk at @DrOz #quitforgood

Lastly, I’ve never been a smoker so I can’t imagine what you’re going through. It must be very hard to quit. However, According the American Cancer Society, “research shows that smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have support.”

Know there are professionals out there who can help you if you need it. Once you choose to quit, carry on. Be empowered. Be in charge of your health. You can do it! I wish you all the best.

Your turn

Are you a smoker? Did you participate in The Great American Smokeout Twitter Chat? What tips do you have to quit? Please share them in the comment section below. As always thank you for your very valuable time.

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