Mobile Apps to Take Foothold in Health Care -
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Health care providers have historically been hesitant to embrace mobile technology as it relates to building apps that will directly impact patient care. Up until recent years, apps have been seen as a toy rather than a tool, and for some health care administrators that stereotype has been enough to deter them from pursuing apps.

In this week’s reading however, I came across a study being done by psychologist Kenneth R. Weingardt at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. There at Northwestern, they have been doing clinical trials utilizing responsive websites (websites that work well on many devices) and mobile apps. Two examples of these are the ThinkFeelDo website and a suite of apps called Intellicare. (Intellicare is currently available for android devices.) The advantage of these technologies is that by using content such as text, video, and animation they can provide virtual coaching to help the patient walk through the exercises in the app or use the app in other ways to further their treatment.

At this time, the apps that Northwestern is studying are aimed at helping mental health patients with cognitive behavioral therapy. Thus far, they have discovered that the apps do seem to have an impact on reducing the duration of depressive episodes.

Looking into the future, there are some very real advantages to developing apps that will benefit the patients of our health care systems. Some of these benefits are:

  • Increased Time for In-Office Visits and Critical Patient Care – Giving the patient the ability to access information and some credible help through an app will keep some patients from needlessly taking up the time of health care providers with unnecessary matters. This frees up clinic hours for the patients that truly need the appointment time to impact their positive health care outcomes.
  • Face-to-Face Visits That Count – If the patient is receiving some of the help, information, and encouragement that they need through interaction with an app, the visits that they make with the physician will be more substantive. This is because they have already been exposed to needed information and have been informed by interaction they have had with the mobile app. This will make their clinic visits more concise and productive.
  • Further Reach than Physicians – A doctor is limited to one place at a time (usually his office) and one patient at a time. Apps, however, do not have these limitations.
  • Anytime / Anywhere Accessibility – Simple access to help, advice, and encouragement has been the complaint of many patients throughout the years. Doctors are busy people and have heavy patient loads. Because of this, the chance of each patient getting the kind of access that they would like to have is unlikely. Apps, on the other hand, can provide instant access to information, exercises, encouragement, and coaching.
  • Cost Savings – In health care, finances are always a consideration. Our clinics and hospitals have to make money to continue to operate. In truth, there are some patients that take up too much of a physician’s time, and their treatment does not make the clinic or the doctor the amount of money that correlates to the time invested. By investing in an app that will inform and encourage patients like these, the clinic will likely see a reduction in visits that use up clinic resources without contributing the offsetting income. As doctors, we hate to put it in simple, terse terms like this, but some patients make us more money than others. By being proactive with an informative and encouraging app, we can encourage some patients while focusing more of our time on those cases that need us and that pay the bills.

Although the medical profession has been slow in adopting this technology, the simple truth is that giving a patient tools to help them cope is better than dealing with their frustrations concerning wait times, appointments, and lack of attention. Alleviating even some of these stressors will help both patient and health care provider. Giving the patient some avenue to actively engage in their own health care will bring them into the process instead of making them feel like they are only the object of the process.

Joseph Siemienczuk, MD. of Northwestern said, “We have to follow the communication preferences of the community and it is clear that their communication preferences have moved to mobile technology… As we pursue effectiveness, moving patient engagement activities to mobile technology is an imperative.”

To learn more about how information technology like mobile apps can help you facilitate better health outcomes for your patients contact Apex by phone (800) 310-2739 or email today. We would be happy to consult with you concerning your IT needs.

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