by HIPAA and MU’s Stage 2 standards, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). To rectify this problem, the ONC is cur- rently conducting extensive research for the development of a set of “best practices” to
help small- and medium-size provider organizations secure the growing number of mobile devices that process health data with the overall goal of protecting patients’ health records.
The rise of mHealth While the HITECH Act attributes MU specifically to EHRs and computerized physician order entry (CPOE), physicians should begin looking beyond the simpler functions of their smartphones and envision the potential for a revolu- tion in medical care. Mobile devices are highly portable and show great promise for providing a powerful foundation for telemedicine. Currently, individuals can have certain skin conditions diagnosed by taking photos and uploading them via a smartphone to send to their physician. Diagnostic cardiology can be performed at the bedside using an EKG or ultrasound connected to a smartphone or iPad. In addition, smartphone technology can be used as a diagnostic tool in the assessment of a patient’s gait, strength, agility, movement and so on. A recent study found that nearly 17 million consumers were accessing health information on mobile devices in 2011, representing a 125 percent increase from 2010. What’s more, 56 percent of physicians used smartphones and 25 percent used tablets for clinical work last year. These statistics leave experts predicting that healthcare and medical-app down- loads will reach 44 million this year, and 142 million by 2016. In terms of investment growth, $500 million flowed into mobile health companies last year, compared to $233 mil- lion in 2010. In the next few years, efficacy studies will no doubt lead to greater awareness and increased investment in mHealth strategies – and for good reason. Health-related smartphone apps streamline the flow of information between health plans, physicians and patients, facilitating one-on-one exchanges that close gaps in care, create quicker care re- sponse and improve the overall healthcare environment. In fact, a number of mobile health website capabilities provide access to: • Physician directories and directions to physicians’ offices; • Claims histories; • Eligibility and cost-sharing requirements for a doctor visit;
• Drug prices of nearby pharmacies, including generic and therapeutic alternatives;
• Self-diagnosis tools, including symptom and disease lookup;
• Daily wellness self-management tools, including trackers for achieving health-related goals;
• Information regarding a specific health-related condition;
• Reminders and alerts regarding prescription drug compliance; and
• Options for in-home monitoring and in-home care. Nearly 90 percent of surveyed physicians would like their patients to use mobile devices to monitor or track certain health indicators at home, according to a report from Float Mobile Learning, a mobile technology consulting firm. Other key findings of surveyed physicians include: 56 percent use mobile devices to help them make faster clinical decisions; and 40 percent said mobile devices help them reduce the amount of time they spend on administrative work. As baby boomers reach retirement age, and as health- care costs continue to rise, mHealth represents a high-tech revolution that has the potential to relieve the cost burden of healthcare and the growing demand for higher quality, patient-centric medical treatment.
Service providers with expertise in mobile technology strategies provide Web-based platforms – not just apps – that automate the labor-intensive processes of gathering, integrat- ing and accessing drug-claim histories and formulary data. In turn, these platforms drive personal notifications regarding drugs that require prior authorization, tailored messaging to increase the effectiveness of consumer engagement communi- cations, and Web-based reporting apps that measure changes in pharmacy utilization and prescription-drug adherence. Automated personal mobile-app services can increase patient satisfaction and save time and money across the healthcare delivery system. For physicians to fully optimize the phenomenon of smart technology – and achieve true MU – they should implement a mobile technology solution that integrates devices in a manner consistent with security protocols, allowing devices to become more pervasive in a medical setting as tools for accessing medical information in a way that can be integrated with other clinical systems. For example, during a patient examination, mobile connectivity should enable healthcare professionals to do the following: review a patient’s medical history; update a patient’s medical record or chart; check for drug interactions; schedule a follow-up and/or lab test; determine and assign billing codes; and, finally, recommend and/or prescribe proper medications and therapies, all within minutes, from the bedside table, exam room or front office – wherever and whenever it is needed.
Government incentives for the adoption of smartphone technology to enhance mHealth and EHR meaningful use do not yet exist, but a growing number of physicians see the overwhelming potential. If the goal is to provide high- quality healthcare in a cost-effective manner, then the integration of EHRs with smartphone technology should not be undermined.
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