Mobile email, SMS opening up patient-physician communication channels

With the proliferation of smartphones, email has become mobile. "And what that means within the healthcare industry is that patients can have quick and easy contact with their physicians to do something like request an appointment," mHealth Initiative President Claudia Tessier tells For The Record.

That, of course, assumes that physicians are willing to accept electronic messaging. Some new products that encrypt email are putting to rest some of the lingering HIPAA concerns. Taking care of privacy and security worries could go a long way toward physicians embracing email to the point of exchanging true clinical information with patients. "If a patient is having certain signs and symptoms, perhaps they need to have some tests done before they go into their physician's office. With email, they can discuss the symptoms with their doctor, have the tests ordered, and then go in for the appointment with test results in hand. It saves them from making an unnecessary visit and saves the doctor time, too," Tessier says.

And if doctors are comfortable with email, it could only be a matter of time until they also embrace SMS text messaging. Public health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are exploring SMS as a quick means of communicating health information to large groups of people. "In an emergency situation, people may not have access to the Internet or mobile phone calls, but they could still have access to mobile texts," CDC e-health marketing chief Janice R. Nall is quoted as saying.

Next on the horizon is a form of patient data collection, observations of daily living, apparently known by the rather clunky acronym, ODL. While the For The Record article doesn't mention the possibility of automatic data gathering by mobile and wireless sensors, FierceMobileHealthcare readers are smart enough to see where this is headed.

To learn more:
- check out this For The Record story