Hospitals and Mobile Health: Time To Get Involved

You’re going to spend a boatload of money on your EMR/EHR this year. And the next year. And several years after that.  Agreed?

And at least for the time being, the only return you’ll see on the massive investment (MU payments) doesn’t come near to covering what you’re spending on that EMR. Hey, with the arguable exception of the defense business, nobody makes a fortune on government programs, right?

So, for the time being, if you’re going to get anything out of your EMR install other than frustration and expense, it’ll have to come from another direction.

As I see it, that direction is mHealth — and initiatives supporting not only doctors but patients as well. Mobile health approaches, which can include appointment reminders, chronic condition outreach and continuing care, have always been an intriguing possibility.

As they’re planning their EMR strategies, hospitals should include mobile channels. With an EMR in place, mHealth approaches becomes much more valuable, as it can deliver and capture information in a dynamic way by drawing on the patient’s own record.

I admit hospitals aren’t totally oblivious to mobile options. For example:

*  Happtique, an organization spun out from the Greater New York Hospital Association, is working with 11 healthcare organizations, is an app store presenting what it sees as the best enterprise healthcare apps.  The hospitals involved are developing (or have already developed) custom applications which will distributed through the store.

*  OhioHealth of Columbus, OH has developed a women’s health app allowing patients to easily connect with their OB/GYN providers.

* St. Christopher Hospital for Children has launched an app connecting the community with health information and data services, including ER wait times and a “my data” section.

The problem is, these type of approaches are just scratching the surface of what mHealth can do.  The big picture to think about in mHealth isn’t just keeping patients informed, or even giving them access to their data, but to use mobile devices to keep up a health dialogue.

Doctors need to monitor what patients are doing — whether they’re taking their meds, what their blood sugars or pulse-ox readings are — and your EMR needs to be able to collect and display this data.   Patients need reminders and feedback, especially chronically-ill patients, and they need those reminders wherever they are at the moment.

Ultimately, this kind of accessible, two-way communications are what both sides will need if they hope to accomplish the ambitious health goals policymakers expect you to meet.

In the mean time, if you want to begin showing some returns — even incrementally — on that giant pile of code you’ve just bought, doing some smart work with mobile health might be a good place to start.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.