Virtualization, cooperation key to integrating mobile into Meaningful Use

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While the adoption of electronic health records clearly is the priority in healthcare technology on a federal level at the moment, it's only a matter of time before mobility is held in the same regard. And if the conversation held last week at FierceHealthIT's executive breakfast--titled "mHealth's Evolving Role in Achieving Meaningful Use"--is any indication, both technologies will be inextricably linked when that time comes.

Virtualization will be big key to that link, believes Capt. Robert Marshall, MD, chief medical information officer for the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Marshall, who jokingly referred to the military's health system as "the only deployable, worldwide HMO in the world," talked about some of the issues that go along with such a distinction.

"We do have some unique problems with trying to get people their data from places like Afghanistan or Iraq or a ship out in the middle of nowhere back to the healthcare system," Marshall said. Virtualization "would solve a lot of the issues regarding trying to serve up you're EHR on your iPad or your Android tablet or whatever you're using."

Marshall specifically said that the creation of a remote, disconnected desktop would help cut down on "data-at-rest" issues and bandwidth used, and pointed out that such technology wouldn't be so different from, for instance, providing home health or remote health. "We look at that as an ability to push that out to the commercial market," he said.

In terms of actually having EHR technology on remote devices like the iPad, Chilmark Research analyst John Moore said the current push toward mobility--in particular with tablet devices--has caused a rift between doctors and tech professionals. "We project with the new tablets coming to market this year and next that...right around 2014 or 2015 we'll have huge saturation" of those devices among providers, he said. "That puts a lot of pressure on the IT staff [when doctors with such devices] go to their CIOs and say 'OK, I want my EHR on my iPad.' The CIOs are saying 'well, we can't really do that yet; we've got other things we're trying to take care of.'"

Such a rift, according to Joseph Kvedar, MD, director of the Partners Center for Connected Health in Boston, isn't necessarily a bad thing if it ultimately means faster adoption. Kvedar has studied the power of mHealth to help patients suffering from heart failure, hypertension and diabetes, and testified that the importance of such technology to providers is growing every day.

"Just think about the power of 'in the moment,'" he said when asked specifically about Meaningful Use Stage 2 and mHealth. "If you're organization is being held accountable [for quality outcomes], this is an enormously powerful platform to do that....Practices are really coming on board with uses of mobile in that context because it gives them that kind of measurement tool that's really powerful."

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