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E-Patient Update: Enough Apps Already

Posted on September 1, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

New data suggests that while app use is becoming a core activity for mobile, the number of apps people use is dropping. In fact, over the longer term, analysts say, most businesses will need to slim down the number of apps they deploy and do more to retain app users.

Speaking as someone who relies on apps to manage her health, I certainly hope that this happens among healthcare providers.

Maybe you think of my contact with your organization as a series of distinct interactions, and the data something that can be reintegrated later. All I can say is ”Please, no.” I want every digital contact I have with your organization to be part of a large, easy-to-navigate whole.

In fact,  I’ll go further and say that if your organizations offer a single, robust app that can offer me broad access to your administration, clinical departments and patient data I’ll choose you over your competitors any day.

Health app overload

As you may know, the number of health-related apps available on the Google Play and iTunes stores has grown at a dizzying pace over the last few years, hitting approximately 165,000 across both platforms as of two years ago. Most of these are were created by independent developers, and only a small percentage of those apps are downloaded and used regularly, but it’s still a stat worth considering.

Meanwhile, new data suggests that the field is going to narrow further among apps of all types. According to research from Business Insider, somewhere between 10% and 12% of app users remain engaged with those apps within seven days of installing them. However, that percentage drops to around 4% within just 30 days.

These trends may force a change in how healthcare organizations think about, develop and deploy apps for their end users. As users think of apps as utilities, they will have little patience for using, say, one for your cardiology department and another for sleep management, not to be confused with a third portal app for downloading medical information and paying bills.

If you’re part of an institution with multiple apps deployed, this may sound discouraging. But maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.  Consumers may have less patience for a fragmented app experience, but if you produce a “power tool” app, they’re likely to use it. And if you play your cards right, that may mean higher levels of patient engagement.

My ideal health app

Having slammed the status quo, here’s what I’d like to see happen with the apps developed by healthcare organizations. I believe they should work as follows:

  • Providers should offer just one app for access to the entire organization, including all clinical departments
  • It should have the ability to collect and upload patient-generated data to the EMR
  • It should provide all features currently available through existing portals, including access to health data, secure email connections to providers, appointment-setting and bill payment
  • It makes all standard paperwork available, including informed consent documentation, pre-surgical instructions, financial agreements and applications for financial aid and Medicaid
  • It generates questions to ask a provider during a consult, before an imaging procedure, before, during and after hospitalization

I could go further, but I’m sure you get the idea: I’d like my providers’ apps to improve my health and foster my relationship with them.  To make that happen, I need a single, unified entity, not a bunch of separate modules that take up space on my phone and distract me from my overall goals.

Of course, one could reasonably observe that this turns a bunch of small lightweight programs into a single thick client. I’m sure that has implications for app coding and development, such as having to ensure that the larger apps still run reasonably quickly on mobile devices. Still, smartphones are ridiculously powerful these days, so I think it can still happen.

Like it or not, consumers are moving past the “there’s an app for everything ” stage and towards having a few powerful apps support them. If you’re still developing apps for every aspect of your business, stop.

Mobile Apps Pose Security Risks

Posted on July 11, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Mobile apps that share files via the cloud may be popular, but they pose risks in a clinical setting, according to a study reported by FierceMobileHealthcare.

The study, which was conducted by the Ponemon Institute, concluded that many health organizations aren’t taking the steps needed to guard protected health information on mobile devices and in the cloud.  In fact, more than half of respondents (54 percent) reported having an average of five data breaches involving the loss or theft of a mobile device containing  PHI, according to FierceMobileHealthcare.

About 33 percent of Ponemon respondents said they need to access PHI to do their work. That being said, only 15 percent of survey respondents were aware of HIPAA’s security requirements for regulated data on mobile devices.  This was the case despite the fact that 33 percent of respondents were part of a HIPAA-covered entity.

Meanwhile, 40 percent of respondents weren’t sure if their organization’s policies on employee access and use of regulated data on mobile devices were HIPAA-compliant. Twelve percent said they were compliant, 31 percent were partially compliant and 17 percent said they were noncompliant.

While healthcare organizations may be playing it a bit fast and loose where use of the cloud via mobile is concerned, they’re still being very cautious where other  uses of the cloud are concerned, FierceMobileHealthcare notes.

According to a recent survey by technology vendor CDW, healthcare organizations ranked seventh out of eight industries studied when it came to adoption of cloud computing.  According to CDW, healthcare leaders cited security concerns about proprietary data and applications as reasons they’d been reluctant to adopt cloud technology.

Patient Safety, Interoperability, and Resolutions: #HITsm Chat Highlights

Posted on January 12, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Topic One: The ONC wants public comment on its #healthIT patient safety action plan. What oversight is needed to improve patient safety?

Topic Two: Why don’t we share our clinical info/data? Are you your own #HIE?

Topic Three: What is your definition of healthcare interoperability? How will you know when it becomes reality? 

Topic Four: Resolution check: If you are working at making changes to start 2013, what technology is helping the most?

Topic Five: Free for all: What #healthIT issue captured your interest this week?

Ford’s SYNC Technology Looking to Include Mobile Healthcare

Posted on May 20, 2011 I Written By

When you think of cars and the types of assistance that they provide you immediately think of getting directions or various sources of entertainment such as music and movies.  Recently many car companies have developed programs that can locate businesses and restaurants in your area followed by giving you directions to get there.

Ford is now going a big giant leap farther by working together with healthcare companies to develop mobile apps that could help people better manage their health.  Initially they are looking at developing apps that will help diabetics monitor their blood glucose levels as well as helping those with asthma or allergies better avoid environments that may cause them issues.

Much the way apps that already exist can help you avoid areas with large amounts of traffic, users will be able to avoid areas with allergens in the air that could irritate their allergies.  In the future, Ford is looking at developing apps to help monitor heart rate and even using technology to help relieve stress when driving.

Some may look at this move and wonder why Ford is stepping into what seems like an entirely new realm, but this quote from Gary Strumolo of Ford sheds some light on what they are trying to accomplish.

“Ford’s approach to health and wellness in the vehicle is not about trying to take on the role of a healthcare or medical provider, we’re a car company,” said Gary Strumolo, global manager, Interiors, Infotainment, Health & Wellness Research, Ford Research and Innovation. “Our goal is not to interpret the data offered by the experts, but to work with them to develop intelligent ways for Ford vehicles using the power of SYNC. In essence, creating a secondary alert system and alternate outlet for real-time patient coaching services if you will.”

I have an early version of SYNC in one of my cars, and I absolutely love it.  It makes so many things more convenient, and it interfaces so well with all of the devices that I have hooked up to it.  There are already numerous upgrades to the program since I bought my car in 2009, but reading about stuff like this gets me even more excited about what the future holds, especially in the realm of improving my health.

The full press release fro Ford can be found here.

Could a Mobile App Actually Detect an Acute Stroke?

Posted on May 12, 2011 I Written By

A very interesting study was recently conducted in Canada that may very well lead to the widespread use of mobile apps in clinical situations.  There are already numerous apps that can help patients deal with managing diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and even cancer treatments, but this study, published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research suggests that mobile apps may also be effective in clinical situations.

The study took place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and utilized a teleradiology system for the diagnosis of acute stroke.  I am no doctor, and I don’t claim to understand most of what was in the actual report, but there are a few things that I did understand that could prove to be extremely noteworthy in the future.

The study used currently available smart phones to see if the devices could handle the imagery necessary to make an accurate and timely diagnosis of acute stroke.

According to the study, “The sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of detecting intraparenchymal hemorrhage were 100% using the iOS device…”.  Like I said, I am no doctor, but 100% is pretty darn good when it comes to diagnosing any kind of disease or injury.  While the results are impressive the study ultimately had the following conclusion:

The smartphone client-server teleradiology system appears promising and may have the potential to allow urgent management decisions in acute stroke. However, this study was retrospective, involved relatively few patient studies, and only two readers. Generalizing conclusions about its clinical utility, especially in other diagnostic use cases, should not be made until additional studies are performed.

As they stated in their own report this is an extremely small sample size with plenty of restrictions and shortcomings, but it does shed some light on what the future may hold.  With further studies and research doctors may well be able to save lives using their smartphones.  I am sure there will be plenty of naysayers out there, but if we have the technology to save lives we are only hurting ourselves if we don’t use it.