How mHealth and data integration impact patient engagement

The following is an excerpt from an article published in the FierceMobileHealthcare's eBook "mHealth Into Action." Download the eBook here to read more.

By Annette M. Boyle and Brenda L. Mooney

Integrating data from mobile health applications and other sources with a patient's electronic health record (EHR) offers more data and greater patient engagement, but industry leaders encourage providers to carefully consider what--and how much--information to collect to ensure the information is useful to both providers and their patients.

More than 50,000 patients have downloaded Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine's MyNM MyChart app. Like mobile apps offered by many hospitals, Northwestern's offering gives patients access to portionsof their medical record, including medication lists, information about allergies and ongoing concerns. They can also access lab results, submit prescription refill requests, make appointments and send secure messages to physicians.

"We're probably a national leader in terms of participation with more than half of the patients in our primary care group now using MyChart," says Lyle Berkowitz, M.D., associate chief medical officer of innovation for Northwestern Medicine, which includes Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and nearly 1,100 beds in two hospitals.

While MyChart has been a success, Berkowitz, who also serves as medical director of information technology and innovation for Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group, wants other apps to prove their value and popularity before he integrates them with the EMR.

"It's quicker, easier and cheaper to let apps that we are piloting or that apply to small groups stand alone," he says.

When considering mHealth app data integration, Berkowitz advises that tech leaders keep in mind that more isn't always better.

"Many apps need some filter before data goes into the EMR," he says. "You don't want every bit of data about how many steps someone has taken each day to go in.

You need to use analytics and business intelligence to present a summary that is integrated and useful."

To filter data, Berkowitz recommends setting a filter so that only abnormal results are sent into the office via the EMR. Alternatively, an organization can provide a data visualization tool that allows clinicians to quickly see patterns and problems, or include a rules engine that does more sophisticated analysis to ensure that critical information is not submerged in a sea of data.

Just who will take on the role of making sense of all that data from all the emerging mobile health apps, patient records and other sources remains to be seen.

"This is still a very early space and it is unclear if the 'after-collection transformation' will come more from the vendors doing the data collection, from the EMR vendors or from third party" programs, Berkowitz says.

To read the rest of this and other articles, download FierceMobileHealthcare's free eBook,"mHealth Into Action."