Mobile health tools must engage patients to deliver on true promise

There clearly is no limit on the potential of mobile healthcare technology. If someone told me 10 years ago that a smartphone could be used to track one's health, I likely would have responded with a measure of disbelief, especially considering the associated security risks.

Obviously, I would have been dead wrong. Still, while it's great to have new ways to monitor blood pressure or heart rate, the tools won't do any good if patients and physicians don't stay engaged. 

In fact, every mHealth tool should have patient engagement and communication as a core strategic benefit, even if it's designed to replace the diabetes pinprick test or the blood pressure cuff or the under-the-tongue thermometer.

Why? Well, as a study we report on this week reveals, providing content and insight on medical and health issues to patients drives patient engagement in their own care, boosts patient satisfaction and gives caretakers a deeper understanding of a loved one's condition.

The Brigham and Women's Hospital study notes that apps, portals and Web-based access to data boost decision making, improve quality of care, reduce redundancies and improve safety.

A patient who is engaged in their own healthcare treatment and recovery has a more likely chance of getting better and staying healthy than someone who has no clue what's in the IV, doesn't understand test results and can't name the doctors on their care team.

Tom Scaletta, M.D., who serves as medical director of patient experience and the emergency department chair at Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare near Chicago, puts it best in a column at Hospital Impact: Improving the patient experience via patient engagement, he says, "pays dividends not only clinically, but financially, as well."

"In today's age of healthcare consumerism and its subsequent focus on financials, the question is no longer whether to invest in digital patient engagement," he says. "The question is: How much will it continue to cost your organization if you don't?"

The answer? I think that's something most smart healthcare organizations never want to find out. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)