mHealth Summit 2014: Providers must invite patients to use mobile tools

To get patients to embrace mobile healthcare tools, providers must invite them in, according to panelists speaking at Tuesday morning's FierceMobileHealthcare Breakfast at the mHealth Summit at National Harbor near the District of Columbia.

The panelists--Luke Webster (pictured right), chief medical information officer at Dallas-based CHRISTUS Health; Neil Evans, co-director of Connected Health at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; and Imran Chaudhri, solutions architect at MarkLogic--spoke to a crowded room at the Gaylord Convention Center about the impact of mHealth across the care continuum.

The clinic has now moved to patients' pockets, Evans said, and that's the real power of mobility.

But, how does the industry use the technology to engage those patients, Webster asked. One answer, he said, is making the software usable for patients, especially those struggling with illnesses that limit their capacity to use the devices.

"A focus on user design is absolutely imperative," Webster said.

CHRISTUS piloted a remote monitoring care program to help patients from the comfort of their homes. Webster said at first, the nurses weren't sure of the platform, which can be accessed through a tablet or smartphone, but soon realized the benefit of remote monitoring.

"We blew it out of the water," he said of the six-month study, which brought hospital charges per person down from about $13,000 to $1,200.

Another focus to get patients using mHealth is trust, Evans (pictured left) said.

At the VA, he said, adoption of smartphone technology lags, and the agency must think broadly about the definition of mobile, including use of simpler tools like secure messaging.

"Engagement and adoption is tied to a personal invitation from someone you trust in the healthcare system," he said.

Chaudhri agreed that trust is paramount for both physicians and consumers; they are more likely to use apps and tools recommended to them.

Engaging patients, Webster added, is a great way to ensure that providers also will become engaged with mobile health.