Mobile healthcare, telemedicine, telehealth, BYOD

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Advice for the mHealth Coordinator? Plan Ahead, and Don’t Leave Anyone Out

Healthcare is filled with mHealth and telemedicine projects that failed because they weren't well thought out. A couple of experts offer these tips for that next big project.

By Eric Wicklund

- Looking to launch a new telemedicine program? Don’t just think about one app, device or video visit platform, and don’t just make it for the patient, the doctor or the IT director. Map everything out, involve everyone in the process, and make sure you don’t become the ‘Wal-Mart of Telemedicine.’

That’s the advice of industry experts looking to help healthcare providers get ready for the new year. And with so many health systems looking to test out one app or platform, it’s important, they say, to keep the big picture in mind.

Colin Roberts, senior director of healthcare product integration for the West Corporation, says a health system may end up causing more problems than it set out to solve if it adopts one app or platform with one goal in mind.

“Providers need to look beyond mere data capture, and figure out what to do with it once they have it,” he says. “Otherwise, it becomes just another data silo. Keeping the end point in mind, providers can put patient data captured through telehealth in context, make it actionable, and flow it into their EMR or other system of record.”

“A smart, comprehensive telehealth strategy closes data gaps and the risk associated with high-latency data,” he adds. “The point is to make the data actionable, rather than just another piece of information that sits in a digital warehouse.”

READ MORE: Telehealth Experts at ATA: Direct-to-Consumer Care Takes Time

Jonathan Draper, Calgary Scientific’s director of healthcare product management, says providers have to balance the needs of the clinicians with the capabilities of the IT department. “It’s a delicate balance in focusing on the usability features that physicians are looking for, while also making sure that the solution is deployed in a way that adheres to IT department policies,” he says in a recent blog.

Draper says health systems sometimes allowed their IT departments to roll out a mobile platform and then let the doctors and nurses adapt to it. That changed somewhat with the BYOD phenomenon, when doctors came in with their own devices and demanded that IT adapt to their preferences. That put both departments at odds with each other.

“It took time for (BYOD) to become a norm; but more importantly, it required the IT team to acknowledge that mobility is a permanent healthcare tool – not just another temporary Band-Aid or fad – while care teams had to prove the value of this access while showing they could manage this power responsibly,” Draper writes. “These realizations, in conjunction with the benefits (providing improved access to information), give everyone a common goal and common direction to work toward.”

Roberts also advises against adopting the ‘Wal-Mart of healthcare’ approach, or finding the simplest tools to meet consumer demands. Balance a consumer-centric approach, he said, with initiatives that really make use of personal health data. Know your patients, he said, and find out their preferences. Develop platforms that meet the patient’s needs and deliver actionable information that can improve clinical outcomes.

Likewise with the balance between clinicians and IT. Draper says both departments have to consider what the other has to offer when moving forward with a new mHealth project.

READ MORE: Providers Like Virtual Care, But Sustainability Issues Linger

“Bringing only a physician’s perspective reduces the likelihood that you understand emerging trends that are proving worthwhile in other tech-focused fields and that will need reshaping to fit a healthcare need,” he says. “On the other hand, if you’re only looking at things from a technology/IT perspective, you may not realize what the healthcare need is in the first place to build something caregivers are actually willing to adopt.”

Finally, both Roberts and Draper say, recognize that an effective telehealth program helps everyone.

“While telehealth is a way to offer greater convenience and choice for the patient, it also does the same for the provider,” he says. “Imagine working remotely twice a week, and scheduling all your video consults from the comfort of your own home. Or, leveraging a mobile app to monitor your patients’ well-being in real-time - whether you are in your office or on the golf course.”

“Breaking down the silos between data sources and departments involves a complex blend of technology and people that, not surprisingly, can result in conflict along the way,” Draper says. “However, the ultimate goal remains the same for all: protect the patient. Understanding the concerns of each department and encouraging communication amongst the groups can reduce this tension, allowing for innovation to take hold and enhance care throughout an organization.”

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