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How Mobile Health Apps, Portals Improve Patient Engagement

By Vera Gruessner

- Mobile health apps, patient portals, and fitness tracking devices all play a role in ensuring that patients become engaged with their health and overall wellness. Whether it is to remain dedicated to managing one’s medications and prescriptions or focusing on improving one’s diet and exercise routine, various mobile tools can be used to boost patient engagement with health and wellness throughout the country.

Patient Portals and Mobile Health Apps

Several months ago, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) released its 2015 HIMSS Mobile Technology Survey, which showed how mobile health apps and other Internet-based, remote technologies can be used to engage patients with their healthcare and assist providers in meeting various meaningful use objectives.

Nearly 240 healthcare providers responded to the HIMSS survey and illustrated that mobile health apps and technologies are being utilized across the healthcare spectrum to boost patient engagement. For instance, almost 90 percent of survey takers reported using mobile technology to improve patient interest and satisfaction with their establishment.

Additionally, 73 percent of organizations used app-enabled patient portals to increase consumer participation in their overall health and wellness goals as well as meet relevant Stage 2 and Stage 3 Meaningful Use requirements under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.

More healthcare facilities are also focused on analyzing how well mobile health apps and other tools affect patient care delivery, the executive summary on the HIMSS survey stated. More than half – 51 percent – of those surveyed reported that their organization was able to leverage technology in order to better coordinate care.

Nearly half of those polled stated that “implementation of mobile services for access to information is a high priority at their organization.” Additionally, more than half – 57 percent – indicated that their facility implements a mobile technology policy, which often has a focus on mobile health security capabilities.

About one-third of polled healthcare organizations stated that they provide “organizational-specific apps” to the patient community. The survey also discovered a major barrier that is standing in the way of leveraging mobile health apps and technologies to boost patient care. This barrier is lack of funding across several facilities.

One healthcare system that was recently named “Most Wired” by Hospitals & Health Networks’ 17th Annual Health Care’s Most Wired Survey is Lee Memorial Health System, reports the Naples Herald. This shows that the four hospitals under this umbrella have advanced use of health IT systems and mobile technologies in efforts to improve patient engagement.

“This is a significant acknowledgement of our health system’s leading edge accomplishments in the area of electronic health records and overall automation and informatics, centered on our use of the Epic electronic health record,” Mike Smith, chief information officer for Lee Memorial Health System, told the news source.

Most Wired hospitals are also more likely to have efficient care coordination and interoperability among their electronic record systems and mobile technologies. Advanced health IT platforms as well as the potential of mobile health apps could in fact reduce medical errors across the healthcare spectrum. Additionally, the patient portal can be a key tool in improving patient engagement with their medical care.

“Through MyChart, we have also implemented automation to help patients access their relevant clinical information and interact with their providers, which enables the patient to be a true partner and decision maker in their care,” Smith explained.  “The patient can then delegate MyChart access to family members, enabling family members to be an empowered advocate for their loved one’s care.  These capabilities enable improved care and improved patient safety, which is at the forefront of what Lee Memorial Health System is all about.”

Clearly, patient portals, mobile health apps, and health IT systems all play a role in enhancing patient care and engagement, which will likely be leveraged over the coming years in various organizations across the country.

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