Mobile healthcare key to improved minority outcomes

Smartphones, health apps and other mobile health technologies may prove more valuable than a hospital-based EHR for improving communication with minority patients. A set of five studies, published by the American Health Information Management Association's Foundation's Perspectives in Health Information Management, dug into everything from using cell phones to manage diabetes among minority patients in urban areas to how mobile devices affect health access by Native Americans, reports Healthcare IT News.

The upshot for most of the studies: Having a mobile connection to their patient data, and a direct link to their clinicians can overcome some key barriers to care, namely distance and access. 

One big reason is that minority patients own, and use, their mobile phones more than their white counterparts, one of the studies says. It cites recent Pew Research Center data showing that 87 percent of African-Americans and Latinos own a cell phone compared to 80 percent of whites. And more minority users take advantage of data applications on their phones, using a wider range of phone features than whites. 

One problem with this scenario, though, is that minority patients may not be using the same devices as their caregivers. One study estimated that less than 20 percent of Americans overall own a smartphone, while 94 percent of physicians use them. "The lack of this technology's availability limits patients' capacity to access not only their physician, but also health-related educational content and social networking sites" that can provide valuable information and support, according to Miguel Tirado, author of "Role of Mobile Health in the Care of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse U.S. Populations." 

Still, the studies indicate that cell phone use can be particularly valuable for managing chronic diseases like CHF or diabetes, by providing culturally appropriate health or medication reminders, diet advice, and the like.

To learn more:
- read through all five reports, courtesy of Perspectives in Health Information Management
- here's the Healthcare IT News article

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