Why small feats equal huge mHealth wins

When I called to make a medical appointment for my 92-year-old father this week, the receptionist said she would be sending out the pre-visit paperwork required for first-time patients. "Great," I thought to myself, thinking that will save time and increase the possibility of getting in and out of the doctor's office within an hour.

But of course I wasn't completely content with that level of improved efficiency, and had to push for even more timesaving by asking if she could email the forms. That way, I could complete them on my laptop while I worked and simultaneously kept an eye on my kids at an after-school event.

No such luck.

"Why not?" I asked.

"We don't do that," she said, in a tone signaling she wasn't up to debating or entertaining my curiosity.

But imagine the time that could be saved if that emailed form could be sent back into the doctor's system, and then downloaded into a new chart. It could signal or highlight potential issues or questions for the doctor tied to my father's personal health data, which would make the check-up even more valuable and efficient. But nope; I had to write out the answers, and we're bringing those sheets with us next week. Someone on the doctor's end will then type the information up into yet another form that will be printed and placed in the chart.

That got me thinking about how one little innocuous technology improvement can have a tremendous impact on a grand scale, given all the patients a doctor sees in just one week, a month or a year.

It's like when my local pharmacy turned to e-prescribing; it eliminated the trek once required for dropping off a prescription (and the time waiting in line to drop off that prescription). Such a seemingly tiny improvement culminated into huge efficiency.

Mobile tools have the potential to add even more efficiency to the efforts I described above, once they become more ubiquitous. While some hospitals have mobile capabilities to handle my first problem, I'm betting that those who do are few and far between.

But simplicity and efficiency should be the crux of most, if not all, technology development. Health technology, in most cases, doesn't have to move mountains, break sound barriers or forge new paths where no path has been before.

Sometimes, it's just that tiny next step that can make a huge difference. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)