Written by: Terri Ottosen, Consumer Health Coordinator, National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM), Southeastern/Atlantic Region (SE/A), firstname.lastname@example.org.
The inflection point is a mathematical term, defined as “a point on a curve at which the sign of the curvature changes.” It can also mean “a moment of dramatic change, especially in the development of a company, industry, or market.” There have been many indications that health care in general and consumer health specifically, are at the inflection point.
In her 2014 paper, Internet Trends 2014 – Code Conference, Mary Meeker, a digital industry analyst and partner at KPCB, a venture capital company in Silicon Valley, makes the case for why she thinks health care is at the inflection point. In her rationale, she points to three indicators: 1) health care costs have reached 17% of the U.S. gross domestic product and 27% of health spending is wasted. Over 25% of family income is likely to go to health spending in 2015 and 50% of bankruptcies are due to health costs. Chronic conditions are the reason for most spending and behavior is the root of many health problems from lack of activity, poor nutrition and lack of medication adherence. 2) There are reasons for optimism. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act is investing $35 billion in electronic health records, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is expanding health insurance for millions, and most consumers want access to tools and websites that allow them to better manage their health. 3) Health care is getting more digital. Payment is moving toward value-based health care, consumers want to email doctors or receive telehealth consultations, employers are offering the addition of wellness programs to health plans, and there is growing electronic health record usage. In other words, patient engagement is actually having an effect by attempts to reduce the costs. (http://healthpopuli.com/2014/05/29/health-care-at-an-inflection-point-digital-trends-via-mary-meeker/)
Consumer use of health websites and other online tools is not new, but now consumers are broadening their online health activity and are using resources to support health care decision-making and manage conditions. According to a Cybercitizen Health study by Manhattan Research, 45% of online U.S. adults with a chronic condition reported that the Internet is essential for managing their disease or condition. Researchers report that patients are not replacing physician guidance or orders by doing online research, they believe that this is just a broader move toward consumer or patient participation in their care. The study also found that online research influences how consumers approach health management for themselves or loved ones, with 44% agreeing that the Internet is essential for their health and medical decision-making. According to Rory Stanton, consumer insights analyst at Manhattan Research, “we’ve hit an inflection point in the way consumers use the internet for health. They are going beyond seeking-information to using tools and services to manage the day-to-day aspects of care. That’s good news in this post–healthcare reform environment, in which digital engagement of consumers for example via patient portals and telehealth will be a key to success.” (http://www.drugs.com/news/study-online-consumer-health-engagement-expanding-48171.html)
Librarians that work with health professionals and consumers have seen this develop and have shifted services and resources to meet the health information needs in a variety of ways. From providing more electronic resources to establishing consumer health services, supporting telehealth, or the use of Fitbit, health information professionals adapt to the changing landscape of health care. The NN/LM SE/A Region enjoys a network membership with great interest in consumer health. We also try to adapt to our member’s needs by providing training, funding and support for outreach so that new ideas and projects can be realized. As we begin to think about the next contract period with the National Library of Medicine, 2016-2021, what ideas do you think our region should focus on as we head towards this inflection point? How have things changed at your institution and in what direction is it headed? How can we support you in this time of change? We welcome any and all input.
Please send your ideas, comments or suggestions to:
Terri Ottosen, Consumer Health Coordinator: email@example.com or
Nancy Patterson, Community Outreach Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org.