CIO John Halamka: mHealth strategy balancing act of functionality, security

Deploying a mHealth strategy can be a tricky business, writes John Halamka, chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center--there's a balancing act between providing functionality to patients and caregivers while also ensuring security and data privacy.

"We're in an era as significant as the mainframe to PC revolution in which BYOD devices and apps are becoming the platform of choice," Halamka says in a post on his blog.   

To illustrate how Beth Israel Deaconess is striving to advance mHealth tech, Halamka, who is a member of FierceHealthIT's Editorial Advisory Board, offers insight on two current projects his team is leading. One is an iOS app that lets patients connect home-based devices with the center's clinical systems via Apple's HealthKit platform. The app, currently in testing mode, is used to track patients' weight reports.

"We'll pilot the application and then enhance its usability based on lessons learned," says Halamka, noting that "very exciting possibilities" are ahead in terms of future functionality, including communication alerts and sharing data like glucose readings and blood pressure tracking.

The second project is a pilot involving a camera and incorporating photos into an electronic health record. The technology deletes the photo immediately after its uploaded, which will prevent release of confidential information, he says.

"If the pilot is successful, we can then change policy at BIDMC, requiring that purpose built, EHR connected, secure cameras be used for all clinical photography. The combination of technology and policy should reduce risk," Halamka writes.  

Beth Israel Deaconess is just one of many hospitals moving forward on mHealth initiatives. Yale-New Haven Hospital hopes to streamline communication while providing healthcare staff secure access to patient data in real-time through a smartphone app and Miami Children's Hospital is working on a mobile discharge program that will let patients view discharge instructions and video on a smartphone.

The three institutions are stand-outs in an industry that isn't making adequate investment in mobile computing, as noted in a recent Spyglass Consulting Group study, despite the fact that seven in 10 physicians want hospitals to increase mobile healthcare and communications investments.

For more information:
- read the blog post

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