Closing The Gaps In Mobile Health

Editor’s note: As general manager of IBM’s public sector business, Dan Pelino leads IBM’s business in the government, education, heath care and life sciences industries.

As our health system transforms to be more patient-centered, evidence-based and effective, mobile technology has been conspicuously absent from daily healthcare workflow. But if we truly envision a future in which patients are at the center of our health system, it’s time for that to change.

Today’s clinicians have access to information that can help them make decisions that are truly individualized for each patient’s unique needs. And new efforts to coordinate complex care needs for patients are helping to tackle chronic illnesses and improve care for the aging population. Yet, despite advances in mobile technology, there is still a significant gap in the effort to bring the power of health analytics and care coordination directly to the patient.

Every day, clinicians are working to better coordinate care and mine healthcare information to make individualized, data-driven decisions for each patient based on their specific medical needs. In today’s growing mobile healthcare ecosystem, what if we could reconfigure the workflow completely around the patient all while transforming the way doctors and nurses deliver care?

The challenges are not only in making mobile devices work seamlessly and securely with hospitals’ IT infrastructure and electronic medical records, but also in designing job and role-specific apps that put critically important data in providers’ hands to improve decision-making and patient care.

Many doctors already have smartphones with 68 percent using iPhones and 59 percent using iPads. Yet, those mobile devices are not well integrated into the hospital and health systems where they work. Mobile devices are rarely used to access patient records or access background information on the latest evidence-based treatments. At the same time, many hospital software programs on desktop computers haven’t been redesigned for mobile platforms.

When clinical apps are designed for mobile with the clinician and patient user experience in mind, mobile will deliver even greater value to our medical system. It will put the patient at the center of the system’s mobile strategy – enabling users to efficiently share information among a patient’s entire care team and to apply advanced analytics at the point of care. To do this, smartphones and tablets need to be connected to a network that is highly secure. Data must be stored in a privacy-aware cloud, where sensitive health care information is released only to authorized providers and the patient. The network and the data need to be managed and controlled.

With mobile security in place, future progress will also result in advances in personalizing the healthcare experience for each patient. We will be able to incorporate data from patients’ own mobile devices into the healthcare ecosystem. Devices people wear or use daily, like fitness trackers, glucose monitors or blood-pressure cuffs, may be set to upload data that alerts caregivers when someone’s health is at risk.

Realizing the benefits of mobile healthcare is a goal of the alliance announced between my company, IBM, and Apple. With apps designed to create a positive user experience and increase productivity and responsiveness, while integrating healthcare providers’ iPhones and iPads with the existing infrastructure, doctors, nurses and other clinicians will be empowered to better manage their patients’ health issues.

Moreover, both companies have formal ties with major delivery systems and leading EMR providers such as Epic Systems, which provides electronic medical records for about half the U.S. population. There has never been a clearer path for the integrated handling of patient healthcare information, putting more decision-making power in clinicians’ hands at all times.

Ultimately, the use of smartphones and tablets will continue to change the way healthcare professionals interact with their patients and provide care. By enabling a more secure, integrated mobile healthcare system, the patient truly will become the center of care.