How mHealth apps connect hospitals with physicians, patients

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

Hospitals and healthcare systems have rolled out a wide range of mobile health applications that tackle many different parts of the stream of information that comes from patients, physicians, nurses and health records and one guiding principle underlies them all: Better communication improves patient health.

"We know that communication problems are often the root cause of many sentinel events," says Benjamin Kanter, who was chief medical information officer at Palomar Health in Escondido, California, at the time of this interview. The three-hospital public healthcare system serves more than 500,000 people in northern San Diego County. "For physicians to make the right decision at the right time, they need clear communication and context."

Palomar took the first steps toward designing what became the Medical Information Anytime Anywhere (MIAA) application back in 2007. "Paging is the worst way to communicate. You don't know who it is and don't have the information needed to make a decision," Kanter says.

To give physicians context when they recommend an action, the medical information technology team developed a sophisticated messaging system that can be used on a smartphone or tablet and directly links to a patient's electronic health record (EHR) at the hospital or at a local practice. "All major vendors have built some kind of mobility client for their own EHR," Kanter says. "We developed one that pulls information from disparate records into one system."

While some features and functionalities of the individual EHRs may not be available in the app, physicians can access most information from any system in a standardized and intuitive way. "We don't expect folks to use their phones for admitting or complex ICU decisions; it's designed to support the work a mobile physician would be doing rather than to replace the PC and 22-inch screen they use in the hospital," Kanter says.

The application has been very popular with local physicians and practices. "We're adding to a very significant purchase made by physician practices and the hospital," says Kanter. Taking advantage of the investments in EHRs and the mobile app helps everyone, he says, adding: "How far would Apple have gone without the Apple store? Or PhotoShop without the add ons?"

For Palomar, attracting physician practices is a central goal of the application.

"None of our physicians are employed, so for us to be successful, we have to make the hospital an attractive place to practice, with tools no one else has and access to data that everyone needs," Kanter says. "Offering access to a system that tells physicians that their patient has been admitted and, within the same app, gives them the admitting doctor's report, the chest x-ray results and an easy way to reach the nurse increases physician engagement, benefits the nurse and improves care for the patient."

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