Written by Vinil Menon for mHealthNews (source).
Vinil is the Vice President of Technology Leadership at CitiusTech.
With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, mobile technologies are quickly being adopted as a means to alleviate certain physician pain points and strengthen patient self-management. The recently released Meaningful Use Stage 2 objectives hold a larger focus on patient engagement, and mobile health holds promise as a key tool in helping organizations address these requirements. In fact, many of the engagement objectives that were optional in Stage 1 – such as patient reminders and education resources – are now required in Stage 2. Additionally, many of the Stage 2 rules reference the delivery of results directly to patients.
With the ability to support healthcare workflows across the care continuum, mobile technologies can have far-reaching consequences on being able to access and share healthcare information, therefore impacting an organization’s chances in meeting Stage 2 objectives.
Online access to health information
Stage 2 has varying threshold requirements for eligible hospitals (EHs) and eligible professionals (EPs) on providing online access to health information. More than 50 percent of patients need to have their information available online. In addition, at least 5 percent of all patients in the case of EPs, and 10 percent for EHs, should be able to view, download or transmit their health information to a third party.
While patient portals are being developed to help achieve this objective, many hospitals are facing difficulties with adoption – mainly, getting users to sign up and ensuring that they access the portal regularly. Also, patient portals are typically only available on desktops and often require patients to enter credentials such as an e-mail address, user ID or password for access. This can pose major challenges to geriatric patients or those who do not use e-mail on a regular basis. Accessing patient portals on desktops also raises information security concerns, since multiple users may have access to patient information. However, due to the personal nature of smartphones and tablets, it is possible to pre-configure access rights to patient portal for individual users.
Also, owing to widespread use, smartphones and tablets may have a better reach with this population. This is especially true for smaller providers, as mobile-based patient portals can be a cost effective way to provide instantaneous online access and exchange of health information.
The new requirement states that providers should use clinically relevant information to identify patients who should receive reminders for preventative or follow-up care. Specialized mobile applications can be an effective tool for keeping patients informed about upcoming visits and medications. The ‘anytime, anywhere’ aspect of mobile technology enables consumers to receive reminders regardless of where they’re physically located, thus helping reduce ‘no-shows’ and eventually enhancing clinical outcomes.
Stage 2 requires providers to give clinical summaries to patients after each office visit and within one business day. In a practical scenario, a provider has very little time in the course of a visit to complete a summary and physically hand it to the patient at the point of care. Mobile applications allow providers to deliver the clinical summary at a more convenient time, reducing the duration of an appointment.
Patient-specific education resources
In order to meet this objective, providers face an array of challenges including data security/HIPAA compliance, identifying applicable resources based on individual patient data and making education resources available to patients in a standardized user interface. The mobile device becomes a simple, familiar and intuitive interface to share educational resources, without complex technological dependencies and access controls.
While mobile devices have significant potential to help organizations address many patient engagement challenges, providers and health IT vendors must recognize the complexity of the mobile device market. Multiple capabilities such as form factors, screen sizes, display fidelity, operating systems, browsers, device specifications and user interface requirements all need to be taken into account.
The success of mobile health for patient engagement relies greatly on the organization’s ability to provide a uniform level of engagement to all users, regardless of the platform in use. New technologies such as HTML5, which enable browser integrated functionality, have the potential to form the backbone of mobile-based self-management of patient data, as it provides a common platform to develop rich user interfaces that are supported across a broad spectrum of devices. HTML5 also supports most of the major mobile platforms, including current market leaders such as iOS and Android, as well as new entrants like Firefox OS and Ubuntu Touch.
With the focus on Stage 2 compliance, and given the industry’s response to the adoption of mobile technologies in areas such as remote health monitoring and radiology, we can expect mobile health to quickly become the primary driver of effective patient engagement in healthcare.