Healthcare Technology Featured Article

February 15, 2013

mHealth Applications Must Foster Patient Engagement

“Patient engagement” is one of the biggest buzz phrases in mobile healthcare (mHealth). Dr. Fastad Mostashari, who serves as National Coordinator for IT the National eHealth Collaborative (NeHC), has said that “patient engagement is the blockbuster drug of the century.”

To help providers increase patient engagement through mHealth, the NeHC has developed a five-step patient engagement framework.

The most basic function of mHealth is to provide basic information for the patient. “Inform Me,” the first step in the framework, includes functions like maps, health encyclopedias, printable forms and care plans.  

LifeApps, for example, has signed a letter of agreement to produce mHealth apps for a company called MediSwipe, Inc. The “GetRx” app will unite patients with geographic areas that can dispense medical marijuana.

The geographic locator will connect patients with pharmacies, caregivers and dispensaries. Patients will be able to leave ratings and comments for each location through the app.

To “Inform Me,” mHealth apps should add “Engage Me.” Engagement steps up the interaction by providing symptom checkers, delivering tracking tools for fitness or pregnancy, sending out reminders for medications or appointments, and giving access to interactive patient forms or electronic health records (EHR).

Another LifeApps product, created in conjunction with 800 Commerce, provides an example of engagement features. In addition to geographical search of medical providers, the proposed “My800Doctor” app will enable mobile appointment setting and prescription alerts.

The third component of the NeCH framework is “Empower Me.” This portion includes potential mHealth app features like messaging with an online nurse, keeping self-management diaries that a doctor could review and coordinating EHR updates between labs, radiology and pharmacies.

“Partner with Me” covers features like home monitoring and patient-generated advance directives about end-of-life treatment. The final component, “Support My e-Community,” allows patients to set privacy controls and sharing permissions.

Support also means coordinating between multiple caregivers and setting up forums in which all caregivers and family members can discuss the care of the patient.

By following the NeHC framework, medical providers can leverage mHealth to care for patients both in and out of medical facilities. Breaking down barriers to interoperability to foster patient engagement could enable mHealth to change healthcare as we know it.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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