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What is M-Health for Physicians?

On “Smart Phones” and Mobiles Devices

By Shahid N. Shah MS

M-Health or “mobile health” is an industry term for collectively defining those tools and technologies that can be used on “smart phones” like iPhone, Blackberry, Android, or on traditional mobile phones from various vendors.

Unlike traditional computers, almost every patient that walks into your medical office, as well as all your own staff, have mobile devices already. If you can find mobile applications that can help your practice you can immediately put to use without large capital expenses, network configuration, and other technical tasks.


The M-Health Initiative

According to the mHealth Initiative, there are 12 major “application clusters” in mobile health: patient communication, access to web-based resources, point of care documentation, disease management, education programs, professional communication, administrative applications, financial applications, emergency care, public health, clinical trials, and body area networks.


The Applications

Almost all of these applications are focused around the patient but most of them will be directly useful to you and your staff as well. Here’s how:

  • Improving physician-patient communications. You can get your staff to send out text messages, e-mails, photos, and other information about your practice to the patient before their visit. You can remind them about appointments, tell them what to expect, ask them for their insurance and check-in information, or let them send you their personal health record link. During the visit you can send them patient education information directly to their phones instead of handing out paper. After the visit you can send medication reminders, additional educational resources, and update to their personal health record, or ask them to join a Health 2.0 social network. PumpOne, GenerationOne, Intouch Clinical, Life:Wire, and Jitterbug phones all have great patient user experiences and you should tell your patients about them.
  • Faster access to information for you and your patients. There are countless web-based resources that are now at your fingertips on a phone. Patients can lookup providers, labs, testing services, etc. that you can refer them to; you can help them join clinical trials, and manage their health records online. None of these require a computer either in your office or in their home, it can all be done on the phone. Check out companies like Healthagen and iSeek.
  • Real-time documentation of office or hospital visits. Most of the things you want to do in your EMR are possible on a smart phone today. You can get your patient profiles, document an encounter with basic order management and lab results review capabilities, and immediate storage into either your own EMR or your hospital’s information system.
  • Help those patients with the most time-consuming treatments. You already know that disease management is an important part of managing the health of chronic patients; diabetes and hypertension are two perfect examples. Help enroll your patients into Diabetes Connect, MediNet, HealthCentral, and similar applications that can help track compliance with your medical treatment guidance. If they use these applications they can simply give you printouts or login credentials so that you can track their progress without doing any data entry yourself. There are patient tools for most common diseases.

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Editor’s Note

Shahid N. Shah is an ME-P thought leader who is writing Chapter 13: “Interoperable e-MRs for the Small-Medium Sized Medical Practice” [On Being the CIO of your Own Office] for the third edition of the best selling book: Business of Medical Practice [Transformational Health 2.0 Skills for Doctors] to be released this fall by Springer Publishing, NY. He is also the CEO of Netspective Communications, LLC.



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One Response

  1. More on Telemedicine

    According to Richard S. Bakalar, MD, immediate past president of the American Telemedicine Association, many physicians think that m-health and telehealth is a wave of the future for Medicare, but so far the program has been slow to embrace technology.

    For example, Congressional legislation in 1997 and 2000 largely established the telehealth component of Medicare, yet in 2006 the program spent only $2 million on medical services conducted electronically, out of more than $400 billion in total spending. Remote patient visits, consultations and other care can generate payment only if they fall under a handful of Medicare payment codes approved for telehealth applications, while the patient must be physically present with a health professional at the originating call site located outside of a metropolitan area. Some types of facilities are not approved to get paid for these services, and Medicare will only pay for home telehealth devices and care as part of an approved pilot project.

    A major factor in 2010-2011 for Medicare’s cautious stance is concern that a large expansion would strain the system’s finances by opening the doors for physicians and others to bill for a whole host of costly and potentially unnecessary telehealth services.

    For further discussion: see http://www.atmeda.org

    Hope Hetico RN MHA
    [Managing Editor]


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