Tippet noted that it's not just a healthcare thing—there's very little science about the efficacy of technology in any field. Did Watt need empirical evidence before patenting the steam engine? Did Sony do double blind studies to see if consumers would rather listen to music on a Walkman instead of lugging a boombox around on their shoulders? Did the healthcare industry need peer reviewed studies of imaging technology such as CT-scanners when they were new?
OK, so there are some healthcare technologies that demand rigorous study. But do text messages reminding patients to take their medication at the correct time each day fall into the same category? What about wireless scales that send a patients' weight to their doctor's office? An app that helps overweight patients make healthy food choices or gives tips to folks trying to quit smoking?
Again, back to the symposium. In a debate-style session, Kvedar and Sahid Shah, CEO of the health IT consultancy Netspective who blogs under the handle The Healthcare IT Guy, debated whether current approaches to patient self-management improve quality or lower healthcare costs.
Much of their back-and-forth focused on evidence (or lack thereof). Kvedar cited several examples of how his organization and other researchers have shown that tech-enabled patient programs can improve outcomes. "There's plenty of evidence," he said.
But Shah argued there's a need for concrete evidence from large-scale studies for any technology that is prescribed by a physician to a patient regardless of how that technology is used—even if common sense says the technology could help the patient.