Author–Mike Koclanes

Globally, healthcare systems are facing large-scale care delivery challenges. In the US, increased prevalence of chronic diseases and aging populations are exacerbating healthcare delivery costs. To address these challenges healthcare organizations are turning to technology and new workflow processes to enable clinicians to make better-informed, faster clinical decisions and to enable patients to better manage their health outside of the traditional care setting.

The healthcare providers and home care workers have adopted mobile solutions to address these challenges. These solutions and initiatives are now being referred to as Mobile Health. As you might expect, today’s healthcare professionals love the convenience and accessibility of mobile communication. A recent survey of 38,000 physicians found that approximately “83% of physicians own at least one mobile device and about one in four doctors are considered ‘super mobile’ users who leverage both smartphones and tablet computers in their medical practices.“

The real question is whether the use of mobile devices in healthcare has a true benefit in patient care. Is Mobile Health a fad or an escalating trend? Or are physicians and care giving teams just like the rest of us and simply chasing the proverbial “shiny new object”- busy people who are desperate for a solution to a set of real or perceived problems that smart phones and tablets seem to solve?

The fact is, Mobile Health initiatives have shown very real evidence of improved patient care and outcomes, particularly in use cases that include the patient as part of the collaborative care team.

Hospitals are beginning to test the significance of the message sent via text on patients.

  • NHS hospitals have reduced non-attenders to scheduled appointments by almost 25% by sending text message appointment reminders to outpatients that include the cost and purpose/necessity of the appointment. Of course, the more informative a message is, the better the patient responds. Protected Health Information (PHI) must always be considered, therefore it is critical that these initiatives include secure messaging applications for these reminders that help ensure privacy and compliance.

In addition, a clinical trial conducted at Johns Hopkins University found that personalized text messages that encourage people to increase their physical activity or that congratulates them for having done so makes a significant difference in the patient’s well-being. In their study of 48 individuals, those who received ‘nudges’ via text were twice as likely to walk farther and reach a preset goal of 10,000 steps daily.

It also appears that patients have jumped on the Mobile Health bandwagon. Patients and their families have started to express the desire for healthcare providers to take advantage of everyday technologies to provide secure and efficient communications. The patient is not only expressing a desire for more responsive and personalized engagement with their medical provider, but increased self-management and self-monitoring of their condition, treatment and prevention. Bottom line, they want more sophisticated mobile collaboration.

  • 26 percent of surveyed health consumers are interested in submitting photos of medical conditions in preparation for phone or email consultations with their clinicians.
  • 80 percent of global smartphone users in one survey indicated interest in using their smartphones to interact with health care providers, not just receive notifications.

The benefits of Mobile Health can be easily seen. Efficiencies arise to all involved because of the ease of use and accessibility of mobile devices. However, why are these more sophisticated means in which to collaborate not yet in place for all healthcare scenarios? Well, for that efficiency to be realized by the care team members and the physicians, studies show that mobile applications must not only integrate appropriately with backend EHR systems for HIPAA compliance and security, but must also ensure administrative efficiencies to be truly effective.

  • A survey of nearly 5,000 physicians found the average doctor who uses an EHR system spends 10% more time managing administrative tasks than their counterparts who rely exclusively on paper records
  • A survey of 62 medium- to large-sized Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) finds 88 percent face significant obstacles in integrating data from disparate sources

As Healthcare organizations transform their business to respond to the needs of the patients, patient families and their care giving teams, institutions of all sizes are reviewing their mobile strategies as well as what is occurring in the industry and with Mobile Health initiatives.

With evidence that the benefits not only increase patient satisfaction, but also provide clinicians with more efficient information, assessment and collaboration, as well as very real improvement in Healthcare outcomes, many will find that services such as those mentioned above will become common place.

In conclusion, the trend toward mobile collaboration and Mobile Health will continue to grow and will only accelerate. The tangible benefits for all parties involved will also continue to increase as more and more Healthcare providers implement technology and it evolves to provide a superior patient and clinician experience. It is important to remember that in order to gain those benefits the mobile applications utilized must not only be easy to use, but must also automatically protect PHI, by design, and integrate to the important data sources and repositories such as the EHR system.

If you would like to find out more about how secure messaging fits into your Mobile Health initiatives, contact us.