Working toward improving health outcomes through initiatives like meaningful use, hospital executives must acknowledge the benefits – and challenges – of integrating mHealth into today’s medical systems. It can provide essential components to healthcare performance improvement, achieving patient engagement, chronic disease management and facilitating communication between providers and patients.1 Although many patients have downloaded and installed numerous apps for health and fitness tracking, few physicians have seen the financial benefits of leveraging mobile devices into care delivery.
A recent study from Boston-based mobile professional services firm Mobiquity underscored the matter, polling more than 1,000 consumers who used or planned to use health and fitness apps.2 From the respondents, nearly 70 percent reported that they used apps to track physical activity and diets every day. However, only 40 percent shared that pertinent data with their physicians.
Hospitals need to close this gap and begin taking advantage of mHealth capabilities.
Combining with wearable tech
Wearable devices in healthcare are one niche technology that has grown in popularity. Today, surgeons can use Google Glass to conduct and transmit surgeries via online “hangouts,” which allow participants to view video feeds in real-time. Because of this, being able to integrate data from remote monitoring technology into EHRs and other healthcare systems can reduce care costs. They can produce significant decreases in clinical documentation errors that might lead to unnecessary readmissions and redundant medical procedures.
The significant challenge to integration lies in regulation, specifically from organizations like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In September 2013, the FDA released its “Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff on Mobile Medical Applications,” which was intended to facilitate the development of mHealth apps for use in the medical setting.3 As federal agencies work to streamline the functionalities of certain apps, executives can make progress within their organizations to leverage devices in healthcare.
Operating in the cloud
With a range of technologies available, hospitals may eventually run into problems with interoperability. Because of this, implementing a cloud-based mHealth platform could provide more compatibility between mobile device apps and technology such as EHRs.4 From there, all health information could be funneled through one pipeline, from the apps being used by patients for everything from fitness to monitoring blood pressure levels.
Cloud computing can facilitate the integration of provider-produced applications. They would be plugged into the same workflow pipeline to seamlessly collaborate with existing systems. In the end, this would help medical centers save money that would typically be invested into software purchasing and employees with specialized information technology skills. Training with cloud-related devices could be included in medical staff development programs, reducing the amount of time dedicated to learning new functions.
Significant barriers still exist for providers using mHealth apps in care settings, namely security and privacy concerns regarding patient health information. With cloud computing, hospital executives can have access to secure portals for storing and sharing medical data that is beneficial to physicians and patients, and cost-effective for lean budgeting.
1EHR Intelligence: http://ehrintelligence.com/2014/03/18/are-we-close-to-widespread-mhealth-adoption/
2Healthcare IT News: http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/mhealth-still-untapped-resource-docs?single-page=true
3U.S. Food and Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm369431.htm
4Advance Healthcare Network Executive Insight: http://healthcare-executive-insight.advanceweb.com/Columns/mHealth/Integrating-mHealth-into-Healthcare-Whats-the-Solution.aspx