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Healthcare Looks to mHealth for Quality Improvement

A survey of healthcare quality improvement professionals finds strong support for mHealth initiatives, including provider-facing apps, wearables and remote monitoring platforms.

By Eric Wicklund

- Health system executives are using mHealth to boost quality improvement efforts, according to a new survey. But success will only come if the technology improves clinician workflow.

A survey of more than 170 quality improvement professionals in healthcare finds that about 80 percent rate improving workflow efficiency as the top priority of new IT implementations. When noting that the top barrier is resistance to change, this means that healthcare providers won’t adopt mHealth and telehealth unless they’re convinced the technology won’t slow them down.

According to the survey, conducted by the American Society for Quality, 71 percent see wearables, remote monitoring platforms and other caregiver collaboration tools as having the most impact on patient engagement and care coordination – two key elements in the push toward a value-based healthcare ecosystem.

Following closely behind were mobile decision support tools for clinicians and online communications throughout the patient’s healthcare journey, both at about 70 percent.

When asked what best supports ROI and cost reduction efforts, almost 70 percent selected RPM, saying it reduces unnecessary office visits and improves patient compliance. Tied for second, at 68 percent, were patient engagement platforms that encourage long-term health management and electronic records platforms that improve clinical workflow by streamlining tasks.

To achieve value-based care, the survey found, health systems will have to tackle some very familiar and entrenched barriers.

As mentioned, the top hindrance is resistance to change from staff and physicians unwilling to learn new skills or fearing that the technology will impede their workflow; some 70 percent of those surveyed said that would be “very difficult” to overcome. Some 64 percent expressed concerns with the cost of new technology, and 61 percent cited complexity, poor integration and the fear of patient errors caused by “haphazard introduction of new devices.”

Susan Peiffer, a performance improvement specialist at Wisconsin-based Hospital Sisters Health System and chair of ASQ’s healthcare division, said health system executives understand the challenges faced in adopting mHealth, but the benefits are more compelling.

"We in healthcare know that there are always drawbacks to technology,” she said in remarks accompanying the survey. “While not a panacea, technology can help engage patients, increase access to care, help improve safety, and make data collection easier.”

"Just as technology continues to evolve, we will continue to improve how we use technology and how we integrate it into our interactions with patients," she added.

When asked what health system executives could do to boost quality improvement efforts, one suggestion was more mHealth apps for clinicians. Other suggestions included improving software platforms to ease data transfer and navigation, using “voice of the consumer” techniques to help with staff training and support, and embedding a quality expert in every department to learn user needs before implementing new technology.

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