mHealth: The Future of Provider-Patient Engagement

These days, I spend a lot of my time on my (so called) smartphone or ubiquitous tablet. I saw a video this past weekend about how we were not smart due to our dependence on (anti) social media while our phones were (I liked that a lot).

While I was in Los Angeles, on a project some years ago, managing the development of specialty clinical notes, the neurology physician I was with at the time, asked me why could we not have the notes on her tablet rather than on the laptop. The functionality that we wanted was not quite possible then, so we continued with our project with the laptop or desktop in mind then.

In today’s world and possibly in the future, this is even more relevant a question as both physicians and patients are more in tune with their mobile devices than they are with any other gadget around. We take pictures, we check our bank account, we send simple emails (sometimes with attachment) and I chat with someone eight thousand miles away in an instant.

I remember a HEMOC physician told me that he received pictures from his patients on his personal phone and also used his “AOL” account to email them, outside of his provider mandated email address. While this was “unusual”, (i’m being polite) it is definitely something that needs to be kept in mind as we move towards a more mobile and connected patient-provider interaction life. Since I already engage with my physician on a portal online, my next easy access would be my smartphone app. Like other individuals, I am also on the go and want to make sure that I am connected at all times (yes, most of us are unfortunately tied to our devices with an invisible umbilical cord).

We keep hearing about BYOD and by now, many provider organizations have developed a policy for BYOD, while the smaller organizations still lag behind. Last week, the American Telemedicine Association had a trade show in Baltimore, MD. For anyone interested in the Tele-Health, Telemedicine areas that is a fast growing initiative in several provider organizations, they should attend this show to get a perspective on the many different solutions for this type of patient engagement. One of the options was interaction directly from your “smartphone” app from your healthcare provider (I just updated the app I use and it had face to face call functionality with my provider, which I thought was very impressive indeed).

While I am a traditionalist at heart and know that what the HEMOC physician in Los Angeles who said that he felt it was insulting to his patients to have a PC in the room, the march of technology, possibly in ways that are less intrusive, will continue if there is a market, which I am sure there will be. As each new generation and iteration of healthcare specific devices becomes available in the market, you will see a much more symbiotic relationship between physician and their technology over the next few years. We are still only in it’s infancy and will look back on this time as we did mainframes and punch cards.



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