The Pros and Cons of Getting ‘App-y’
By Nicole Miller, MS, RHIA, and Lee Wise, MS, RHIA, CHCO
WE LIVE IN an era where we can order groceries online and
have them delivered right to our kitchen. We are able to do
nearly all banking online, making it possible to never set foot in
a brick-and-mortar bank branch. It can be frustrating, then, to
find that due to healthcare’s slow regulatory processes it’s not as
easy or quick to receive care as it is to buy food or do banking.
These days, savvy patients are accessing their healthcare information on their computers at home and even on the go with their
smartphones. And patients increasingly want to interact with providers this way too, demanding telehealth options for an array of
services, such as the ability to schedule appointments electronically, access their patient portal on their phones, and securely send
their physicians data from their own health and wellness trackers.
The problem is some mobile capabilities are advancing faster than the regulatory bodies that govern those technologies,
which means to a large extent many providers can’t use all the
data their patients bring them. Both patients and providers
are frustrated by this. However, it would be beneficial if both
patients and providers understood the current limitations of
existing health IT capabilities.
What Patients Want
Healthcare is trying to adopt the technology as it becomes
available, but adoption still lags in comparison to other fields.
In other industries, such as retail, technology allows for a very
interactive experience. But given the legal protections around
protected health information (PHI), only individuals with the
proper HIPAA training should handle patient data. Patients
understand that face-to-face encounters aren’t replaceable,
they just want the convenience factor that other online activi-
ties offer. While healthcare is lagging in the area of connectiv-
ity and technology, circumstances are improving. Some urgent
care centers and physician offices offer easy online sign-in op-
tions where patients can enter in some of their own medical
history, which saves time when they arrive for the visit. An-
other option for individuals seeking mental health services are
mobile apps such as TalkSpace that provide individual coun-
seling and relationship counseling online.
Several trustworthy apps are available that can interface with
the provider’s electronic health record (EHR) or patient portal,
which allows for more real-time patient updates (i.e., blood
sugar and blood pressure monitoring). Once a physician has
signaled their preference for such an app, patients might begin
to feel a more harmonious relationship with their provider. This
relationship can lead to happier patients and increased compliance with the treatment plan set forth by their provider.
What Providers Want
Healthcare providers that are open to accepting patient-generated data are taking a much needed step in terms of patient
engagement. Providers can also measure their levels of patient
engagement by documenting interactions on patient portals,
which is also a key element of value-based care. The more points
of contact the patient has with their healthcare provider, the more
likely they are to be compliant with specific instructions, such as
taking medications or following a special diet. Once a physician
has connected with a patient through their portal—even if it’s
a smartphone app connected to the portal—the physician can
push out educational materials and helpful tips to the patients,
thereby increasing patient engagement.
It would be wise of providers to try and not feel threatened
by patients who play an active role in their care. Instead, the