mHealth Summit 2014: Execs learn pros, cons of mobile tech through pilots

Patient care can span from the day someone steps into a hospital and through the entirety of his or her life--and mHealth is starting to add real value to that continuum of care.

Panelists at Tuesday's mHealth Summit at National Harbor near the District of Columbia spoke to the crowd about what their organizations are doing to leverage mobile healthcare, and how they address issues as they arise.

At Dallas-based CHRISTUS Health, Luke Webster, chief medical information officer, said his facility has tested pilots to see in what ways mobile technology works for them. One such pilot included remote monitoring through a tablet device for patients diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

The project showed a "substantial reduction" of costs, Webster said, as well as high patient satisfaction.

"That gave us the ability to go to the [chief financial officer] and say 'can we take another step forward?'" he said. "We then were able to expand the pilot to other diseases such as COPD, hypertension and diabetes."

But there were some bugs in the system, Webster said. Literally.

The kits were shipped to the patients' homes and "some uninvited guests" went along for a ride, he said. They had to work out how to better package the tools to prevent that problem.

There were also some software glitches, including a case where the system stopped working and didn't notify the monitoring station. Because of that, information that the patient was failing was not sent out. The hospital was able to salvage the situation and the patient was OK, but it meant going back to the vendor to work out the issue, Webster said.

CHRISTUS Health has also deployed a teleneurology pilot the help patients in rural areas with no access to a neurologist. Through videoconferencing, patients in those areas gained easy access to the care they needed in a timely fashion, Webster said. "We saw fantastic results, with the average time to consult at about 9 minutes."

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, mobile tech is being used to help patients and physicians access info on the go, view medical records on mobile devices and transmit data, said Neil Evans, co-director of Connected Health for VA.

Through the process of getting devices to employees and training them to use the tools, Evans said the VA learned a valuable lesson: Keep your users at the forefront of the process.

At most sites, satisfaction with the tools was above 50 percent--but there was one facility that had a satisfaction rate of less than 40 percent. When the VA looked into why, it found out that the employees there didn't have as much prior experience with the technology and wanted even more training.

"If you're going to deploy mobile throughout an enterprise, you have to really tailor the training to the location and to the user," he said.