VA deploying mHealth apps to give veterans quicker, easier data access

The Veterans Affairs Department plans to debut the first two of several mHealth apps providing veterans easier and quicker access to healthcare data via smartphones and tablets sometime early this fall.

The first app is called Summary of Care, the second is Blue Button. Both provide access to electronic health records, but Blue Button lets users create a PDF file to share data with non-VA providers, according to an article at Federal News Radio. The two apps, which are currently desktop applications available through the agency's My HealtheVet portal, received the highest grades from users during beta testing of eight mobile applications.

"We know that, at least in our pilot population, veterans wanted to have access on their mobile devices or use these applications to see their electronic health records," Neil Evans, the co-director of Connected Health at the Veterans Health Administration, told Federal News Radio. "We've learned from our experience that My HealtheVet patients value seeing their personal health data. We've also learned that they value it on mobile device through our family caregiver pilot, so it seemed a logical next step to deliver that experience nationally to veterans."

The two apps will be the first housed in the VA's impending app store, which is due to be completed this fall as well. The $9.3 million app store project, which was contracted in 2012, will support apps across a wide range of platforms including iOS, Android, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry.

"We have several other mobile applications that will be available to veterans over the coming year-plus," Evans told Federal News Radio.

Evans said the VA's app strategy reflects the growing use by patients who are increasingly tapping smartphones and mobile devices to track and monitor health and fitness efforts. He estimates 25 percent of his diabetic patients are using a mHealth blood-testing app for tracking sugar levels.

A recent FICO survey reveals four out of five smartphone users worldwide are interested in mHealth technology that will let them interact with healthcare providers, 76 percent are eager to use tools for appointment reminders and 69 percent would embrace the tools for medication reminders. Yet despite increasing use, mHealth apps are nowhere near mainstream adoption, according to Karen Taylor, research director for Deloitte's U.K. Center for Health Solutions.

Data security as well as privacy issues with patient data remain top obstacles, as FierceMobileHealthcare has reported. But this year may be the turning point, notes a Mobiquity report, citing that 70 percent of consumers are using fitness and health monitoring apps on a daily basis and 63 percent plan to expand use over the next five years. And maybe, most telling, is that 30 percent describe mHealth app use as more valuable than making or receiving calls.

To learn more:
- read the Federal News Radio report

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