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How Mobile Health Tools Strengthen Patient Engagement

By Vera Gruessner

- Patient engagement continues to play a role in the healthcare industry particularly in the physician-patient relationship, as more hospitals and clinics adopt secure messaging tools to allow individuals to communicate with their doctors quickly and easily without data privacy risks. While the implementation of patient portals remains a top method for increasing patient engagement throughout the healthcare space, mobile health tools can also help consumers become more immersed in better managing their health and wellness.

Mobile Health Tools

Many healthcare providers have been uncertain on whether certain meaningful use objectives in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs could possibly be met since physicians and other medical professionals may be unable to ensure a high percentage of their patient base accesses their health information. However, EHRIntelligence.com reports that patient portals may actually not be the only avenue for increasing patient engagement and enabling consumers to view their health data.

First, doctors and healthcare providers would benefit from better understanding their patients’ preferences when it comes to technology use, which mobile devices or computer tools they possess, and their knowledge or experience with electronic media.

“If they are using the portal, they are doing so on a mobile device,” Senior Vice President and CIO of Miami Children's Hospital Ed Martinez told EHRIntelligence.com. “So why not develop software that is much more user-friendly, more integrated into the end-user? And rather than giving the end-user just access to a portal, why not make it so that it is procedure- or process-based?”

“I want to schedule an appointment, press that. I want to get my lab results, press that. That is more intuitive for a patient than having to go into a portal and siphon through mounds of information or navigation whereas on a handheld I can just press what I want and immediately get that information.”

More information about the potential benefits of mobile health tools on meaningful use attestation comes from the journal Perspectives in Health Information Management, which details how there is a greater divide between rural and urban hospitals when it comes to technology and EHR system use. The spring issue of the journal also detailed how smartphones and mobile health apps could potentially improve patient access to care and disease management.

There are a wide variety of different mobile health tools that could catapult patient engagement in ways leading to improved health outcomes and stronger relationships between doctors and patients. Along with patient portals and EHR systems, mobile applications, wearable devices, remote monitoring platforms, and telehealth technology all brings more participation on the part of the patient as well as increases overall satisfaction of healthcare services.

The journal focused on another method providers can utilize to increase patient engagement and meet meaningful use requirements. The Blue Button project allows consumers to download and view their health information and relevant claims with the click of one button. Essentially, this could improve overall health information management if patients have a simple way to access their medical data and report any potential errors to their healthcare provider.

As the healthcare industry continues to invest in new mobile technologies, the consumer will slowly become more immersed in managing chronic conditions and living a healthy lifestyle.

“With mobile, you have a persistent presence,” Grey Healthcare Group managing partner and chief engagement officer Erin Byrne told eMarketer. “You’re not only able to see what patients are experiencing, you have the flexibility of information delivery—from texting and mobile websites, to tracking health data and progress via apps and overall health management. A mobile device almost becomes a remote control for your personal health.” 

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