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The 83bar approach to technology and ‘virtual medicine’

April 23, 2018

Will virtual medicine transform the American healthcare system? This question was posed by Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel in his most recent book, Prescription for the Future. Dr. Emanuel is the vice provost and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

He asks: Will the latest computer-based technologies like apps, wearables, remote monitors, and other high-tech devices make Americans healthier? After all, as behavioral economists remind us, information alone doesn’t change behavior. Smokers know that smoking is bad for them. Obese people know they should lose weight. People want to take control of their health and be more responsible for it, but all of this requires altering habits and daily routines.

Technology can indeed change the practice of medicine, but it must augment traditional care, not simply catalyze a medical revolution prophesied by Silicon Valley. At 83bar, we’ve taken a different approach to our relationship with technology as a tool for patient recruitment and retention. Rather than machine learning or remote observations of monitoring technology, we’ve created a technology-driven communication system that involves changing patient habits and behaviors once they recognize a health problem and feel motivated to change it.

What Dr. Emanuel supports, and 83bar has recognized, is that the only interventions that effectively change behavior of patients in a lasting way are those that involve structured, person-to-person relationships with nurses and healthcare coordinators. These interventions may not seem high-tech on the surface, but are indeed high-tech and high-touch-driven; remaining our most effective prescriptions to treat chronic illnesses.