Get Ready for mHealth

Why physicians should become familiar with mobile healthcare tools

Linda Harder

What is mobile health, often known as mHealth? While definitions vary, the term generally refers to using mobile devices, such as mobile phones, PDAs and tablets, to support health services or information. Mobile devices can be used for a variety of health-related tasks, including accessing medical information from the web and helping patients better monitor or assess a wide variety of health and fitness indicators.

Current Physician Usage Primarily for Education

While most doctors are not using mHealth for patient care, mobile devices have become ubiquitous for practicing medicine. More than 75% of doctors now use smart phones, and tablet use within the hospital or medical practice is skyrocketing. Popular mobile apps for physicians include:

  • Medscape Mobile – news, full-text journal articles, CME and reference materials
  • Sermo – doctor-to-doctor social network enables on-the-go discussions
  • MIM Mobile – FDA-approved remote diagnostic imaging tool
  • ICD-10 Premium 2011 – details of ICD-10 diagnostic codes
  • JEMS Video Consult – HIPPA-compliant viewing of live medical consults

Hospitals, an important part of the mobile trend, are beginning to use tablets to create helpful tools such as customizable dashboards for physicians to quickly access key patient health data such as vital signs, lab results and medications.

Physicians have been slow to adopt mHealth for patient health monitoring. Ed Bennett, director, Web & Communications Technology at University of Maryland Medical Center, says, “There’s a legitimate inertia among physicians to use e-devices. Few studies exist showing its efficacy and physicians are right to be cautious given the accompanying legal and privacy issues.”

Suzanne Sysko Clough, M.D., a Maryland endocrinologist and founder/CMO of WellDoc, Inc., one of a small number of Maryland physicians creating interactive mHealth tools, concurs. “mHealth adoption by physicians is exactly where it should be, given where we are in the life cycle of innovation.”

The diffusion of innovation takes some time, but there are early adopters out there who recognize the ability of some of these solutions to move the needle on health outcomes as well as increase revenue, both directly and indirectly, to the practice. It will also help as more mHealth applications receive FDA clearance.”

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