This post is sponsored by DocHalo
According to a recent report from healthcare start-up accelerator Rock Health, venture capitalists poured more than $3 billion into digital health companies in the first three quarters of 2014. But where’s most of the money going? Toward efforts that “improve patient care and reduce costs,” the analysis said.
Studies show that as more clinicians and healthcare facilities adopt the use of mobile technology in their daily healthcare practices, the positive impacts on patient care, organizational efficiency and workflow multiply. So how do patients benefit from the increased use of mobile health technology?
Better communication reduces the risk of serious medical errors. For example, the Joint Commission estimates that 80 percent of medical mishaps occur due to miscommunication. One example of this includes when patients are handed off to a new physician or specialist. For clinicians, the ability to send a secure text message facilitates a real-time exchange of health information and removes the need for pagers, email and voicemail, which are not timely and often not secure.
Secure text messaging can be used to remind patients to take prescribed medicines and to comply with recommended care practices, such as pre-surgical procedures designed to reduce infections. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found that patients prefer text messaging when partnering with their physicians on the specifics of their health management. Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, used texts, emails and voicemails to remind patients to take antiseptic showers 24 to 48 hours before a scheduled surgery. Text messages were the most popular electronic communication method (80 percent) among the patients. Those who received the texts were significantly more compliant with the preadmission orders.
Other examples include the numerous Text4Health projects recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These initiatives show the immense opportunities to engage underserved groups and improve health. For example, the National Cancer Institute’s SmokeFreeTXT effort more than doubled the smoking quit rate among teens by texting smoking cessation messages to them.
3. Care coordination
When physicians and nurses collaborate on a patient’s care plan, the ability to exchange electronic protected health information (ePHI) in real time makes a difference. We’ve found that 70 percent of users of secure texting say the seamless mobile health platform delivers better patient care.
“Nearly every clinician in your organization uses a smartphone, and in nearly every case the device contains PHI in the form of an email or text messages. That’s not entirely a bad thing: The fact is, smartphones make clinicians more productive and lead to better patient care. Healthcare providers depend on texts to discuss admissions, emergencies, transfers, diagnoses and other patient information with colleagues and staff.”
4. Patient engagement
When mobile communications are used to deliver a call to action, patients and their families become empowered to take responsibility for their health. Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine developed an automated phone interview system that boosted the quality of care pediatric patients received at their routine appointments. Dr. William Adams and colleagues studied what happened when parents took the survey and physicians had time to review the responses. The results, published in Pediatrics, show that parents were more prepared for the doctor’s visit, more of their needs were met and more of their questions were answered. From the physicians’ perspective, mobile tools ease the burden of providing a myriad of recommended services in a clinical setting. “Systems like (this) can enhance adherence to guidelines and improve the availability of needed patient information,” the study authors wrote.
In addition, we’ve noted that texting between providers and patients can improve care in a variety of scenarios, not to mention the ways it strengthens the doctor-patient relationship.
An analysis in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found the use of a secure messaging tool within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs patient portal (MyHealtheVet) increased patient’s ability to communicate effectively with their primary care team. Veterans who tested the secure messaging system said it saved them time and resources by giving them “24/7” access to their providers. These patients used secure messaging to make appointments, get referrals and fill prescriptions – without spending hours on the phone or driving to a VA facility to complete these tasks in person. The study also found that secure messaging “afforded (veterans) the ability and confidence to draft a question to their provider in their own time and without the pressure of having to relay the same question over the phone or in person.”
Secure Messaging and Healthier Patients
As all of this news indicates, the boom in mobile health and health IT shows no signs of slowing. The availability of technologies such as secure text messaging delivers benefits on many levels:
– Promotes continuous and coordinated patient-centered care;
– Fosters real-time communication among clinicians; and
– Encourages conversations between physicians and patients
The opportunities to empower physicians and patients with technology on secure mobile health platforms will only increase. As Dr. Charles Edmiston noted in his study about using electronic reminders to encourage pre-surgical antiseptic showers, “When you use a prompt like texting or emailing, you make the patient an intimate partner in the health care process.”
To learn more about DocHalo, request a demo
Dr. Barreau is a co-founder of Doc Halo. He is Board certified in Internal Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology. The desire to exchange information quickly and securely with his colleagues eventually led to the development of the Doc Halo app and web-based communication system.
Featured image credit: D.R