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How Improvements to mHealth Apps Increase Patient Engagement

By Sara Heath

- With the increasing use of mobile applications comes the increasing use of mobile health amongst physicians and patients alike. However, since the mHealth market is newly emerging, it is important to evaluate how these technologies are developed and the way in which they help users and increase patient engagement.

mhealth devices and apps increase patient engagement

According to a recent HIMSS article, there are still challenges for providers incorporating these apps and devices into patient lifestyles. While there is evidence that many patients are willing to use mHealth as a part of their healthcare, it is critical for developers to make these apps holistic and easy for users to manage.

“While patients may find it helpful to use an app to manage a specific, time-limited issue, it is not likely they will find it easy to integrate multiple mHealth apps, each of which addresses only part of their overall health,” the article says.

Apps that focus on healthcare for the whole body or for multiple conditions, like the Apple Healthkit, are more likely to be used by patients rather than apps for individual health conditions.

Physicians also see challenges in adopting apps into their workflows, hindering patient engagement. While many physicians own and use tablets and smartphones in their practices, most use them for EHRs, and few use actual apps. For 44 percent of physicians, the lack of app use is due to no provision of company-wide mobile devices and doctors are reluctant to use their personal devices for applications.

Another challenge with physician mHealth device use is the lack of interoperability between information stored in EHRs and the data aggregated from a patient’s mobile health device.

The article states that mHealth apps work better if physicians and users are involved in the development process, and if a pilot process is included in development.

“An app should be developed with actual users as part of the design process,” stated HIMSS. “A new app should be piloted with enough time to correct defects, test the support plan, and ensure staff comfort with the application and its capabilities before it is launched broadly.”

One of the many goals of mHealth app and device use is increasing patient engagement. According to EHRIntelligence.com, meaningful use programs are promoting the use of secure patient portals and direct messaging between patients and physicians. Increasing this communication aids care coordination, the monitoring of chronic illness, tracking drug side effects, and answering patient questions in a timely manner.

As the use of mHealth apps and devices are growing in use, it is important to understand what is and is not working for patients and physicians in order to yield the best results.

“Whether apps are being developed for an organization, or by a developer for direct marketing to patients or providers, as mHealth apps are developed and used more widely, it will be important to continually evaluate which apps are effective, for which patients and situations,” the HIMSS report concluded.

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