Ideas to Ease Challenges of Mobile Health Adoption

Friday, May 10th, 2013
This post was written by Patricia Donovan

Many older patients are adept at mobile health technologies.

With the average worker accessing information via three or more mobile devices — laptop, tablet and phone — it stands to reason that 45 percent of this year’s Mobile Health respondents now offer smart phone apps, text messaging and mobile Web applications to engage and educate “three-screeners.”

But just because the healthcare industry has launched headlong into social business strategies hinging on mHealth technologies does not mean that all strategies are successful. Growing pains from early mHealth adoption include the challenges of cost, interoperability and infrastructure — not to mention the difficulty of measuring mHealth’s impact on cost and utilization, a concern noted by more than 60 percent of the 150 respondents to HIN’s inaugural survey on Mobile Health trends.

Before jumping into mobile, social and cloud solutions, Andrew Dixon, senior vice president of marketing and operations, Igloo Software, proposes this three-point strategy for adoption:

  • Define the problem. Are you seeking to deliver consistent information to patients? Improve the efficiency of collaboration? Support connections between staff and practitioners?
  • Establish a method of measurement. What is the benchmark with the current solution? What are your objectives once your social technologies are in place?
  • Evaluate the main organizational requirements. Consider technology, operations and the culture of your audience.

Cullman Regional Medical Center’s award-winning Good to Go® program, launched in conjunction with ExperiaHealth™, is a winner on all three counts. Faced with the problem of many patients leaving the hospital without thoroughly understanding their discharge instructions, Cullman decided to train some of its staff to use an iPod Touch® to record providers giving their patients discharge instructions.

Patients and family (and soon providers) access the cloud-based recordings via the Internet or smart phone, cutting down on questions and misunderstandings about post-hospital care. Audio-only recordings are available via land line. The positive response was immediate: by dramatically improving this critical care transition, Good to Go has resulted in a 15 percent decline in readmission rates for patients who received recorded discharge instructions and a 58 percent increase in HCAHPS satisfaction scores.

The technology is simple. The program plugs into Cullman’s operations with a minimum of training and investment. The culture has embraced the practice — even older patients, who Cullman feared might be uncomfortable with the technology. Caregivers and family who don’t live nearby are pleased they can access and replay loved ones’ instructions. It also has the added benefit for staff members of providing a complete record of instructions given.

This simple, successful intervention is now being tested in other areas of the hospital as well.

“We started with 4 East, a 31-bed step down unit where all of our CHF, stroke and acute MI patients go,” explains Cheryl Bailey, vice president of patient care services at Cullman Regional Medical Center. “We knew if we could make a difference on 4East, and we could reduce readmissions, then we would be able to replicate that same process in other areas of the hospital.”

Good to Go has been rolled out to preadmission testing, one day surgery, and maternity — not so much to reduce readmissions, but to help improve the communication process, she explains. “We realized with preadmission testing and one day surgery, we often had patients calling back saying, ‘Now was I supposed to take this medicine before my surgery?” or even, ‘Where am I supposed to enter the hospital when I come for my surgery?’ or ‘What did you tell me about umbilical cord care for our baby?’ So we rolled the Good to Go solution to these areas.”

Cullman also uses the program in its emergency room, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, CPAP Care Center and patient financial services — any area where communication could be enhanced.

With a half a billion Americans expected to carry smartphones in a couple of years, mobile health’s capacity to help individuals manage and prevent disease and healthcare organizations to track outcomes is nearly limitless. However, some foresight and planning is advised to avoid flooding the healthare industry with useless apps and games.

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