Should "Meaningful use" include connected devices?

By Brian Dolan
Michael Parkinson vs. ePatient Dave

e-Patient Dave (right) while on a panel at Health 2.0

As is well known by now, part of the federal stimulus package included $19 billion for electronic medical records (EMR) implementation -- and part of those billions include incentives for physicians and hospital groups that implement EMRs by various deadlines. Of course, the implementation also has to meet a criteria referred to as "meaningful use," however, the legislation purposefully left out just what "meaningful use" meant.

In the past few weeks, health IT thought leaders have sketched out their own takes on what meaningful use should mean, but only the most recent opinion piece includes an analysis that suggests connected devices and smartphones may have a place in that definition.

Dave deBronkart, also known as ePatientDave, has written an eloquent post on the ongoing debate as to what "meaningful use" should mean for EMR implementation. One of deBronkart's central points is: "The systems we design today will be in use a long time from now, so I suggest we look at the world as it will be in 2020, and how we'll be using these systems then."

deBronkart goes on to emphasize that everything and everyone will be ten years older -- you, your parents, your children -- and even the Internet will have ten more years of innovation behind it. Our oldest doctors today will be retired or deceased by then, and doctors like Fast Company's "Doctor of the Future" Jay Parkinson (of Hello Health) will be middle-aged, he writes.

"Handheld computers (smartphones) will be ten years more advanced," deBronkart writes. "(More advanced? Heck, the iPhone was only introduced 28 months ago.)  Connected e-health devices will be out of their infancy: WiFi blood pressure monitors, bathroom scales, glucose monitors, you name it. It's fairly certain that by then we'll be able to use cheap devices that send routine data to some central storage place, where smart software (your choice of smart software) can send out alarms or reminders, your care team can view it ... and you should be able to view it, too. And make notes on it."

Predicting the future is no easy task, and deBronkart does a nice job of only hinting at the vision of a more connected health environment in 2020, but decisions makers at ARRA need to decide now whether and (then how) technologies like connected devices should be included as part of the definition for meaningful use.