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MHealth apps can drive patient engagement for physicians

MHealth apps are powerful tools revolutionizing patient engagement and provide a unique opportunity to improve certain clinical outcomes.

We live in a world where almost everyone has a mobile device. Many people have multiple mobile gadgets like smartphones and tablets on which they access multiple applications. People will turn around while driving if they leave their device at home. We feel naked when we don't have our smartphone at our fingertips.

These powerful tools have revolutionized patient engagement for certain medication conditions, and they provide a unique opportunity to improve the clinical outcome of patients who require more intensive management.

Take, for example, how mHealth apps are transforming the management of diabetes. It's a very common condition: We all probably know several people who have diabetes. Effective diabetes self-management generally includes proper diet and exercise, along with a combination of medications ranging from oral pills to injectable drugs.

In the future, we will see mobile apps playing a greater role in the management of other common medical conditions, like high blood pressure, asthma and headaches.

Clinical studies have revealed that when patients are more engaged with the self-management of their diabetes, they have better clinical outcomes. Patients with diabetes can track and record what they eat, monitor their caloric intake, track their blood glucose levels, learn more about their medical condition and even get automated reminders to take their medications through the use of mHealth apps. Given that pills or injections are required several times each day, it can be easy for a patient to forget a dose. Some patients even rely on an ecosystem built around mobile apps, remote monitoring platforms, case managers and health coaches guiding them through the course of their diabetes.

Mobile apps can connect to the Web, leverage cloud computing capabilities, and provide a way for patients to share their health information with their providers. Mobile devices are providing a level of telehealth that never existed before in a relatively inexpensive, manageable platform that is easy for patients and caregivers to navigate.

When we combine biometric sensors with mHealth apps, we find ourselves entering a new era of patient engagement. Some patients with diabetes are already experiencing this because they are syncing their blood glucose levels with their mobile devices. This health information can become part of their personal health record, driving their engagement and motivation to improve the management of their diabetes.

In the future, we will see mobile apps playing a greater role in the management of other common medical conditions, like high blood pressure, asthma and headaches. Right now, blood pressure measurement is a manual process. Some patients may have a blood pressure monitor at home, but few have a blood pressure monitor that sends those results wirelessly to a mobile device.

Biometric sensors that are worn by the patient may change the way blood pressure is managed in the future. Sensors that detect blood pressure fluctuations throughout the day may lead to a higher level of patient engagement and may even motivate patients who have poor adherence to their medications to be more consistent with their treatment.

Wireless sensors would be able to send data to mobile apps that can alert patients and even communicate with their medical providers. Today, biometric sensors are not routinely used for the management of high blood pressure, but they may play a larger role in the near future as these devices become more affordable and common.

In closing, mobile apps have done three major things to increase patient engagement:

  • They have provided a way for patients to become more educated about their own health condition.
  • For certain conditions like diabetes, these mobile apps have provided a platform for patients to track and monitor their biometric data, which ultimately guides the management of their condition.
  • Finally, mobile apps have made it possible for patients to connect with physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers, either for remote patient monitoring or for direct communication related to their health condition.

As mobile apps and devices continue to evolve and become integrated with the world of biometric sensors, we will certainly see new and innovative ways that they will impact patient engagement and clinical outcomes.

About the author:
Joseph Kim is a physician technologist who has a passion to leverage health IT to improve public health. Dr. Kim is the founder of NonClinicalJobs.com, as well as an active social media specialist. Let us know what you think about the story; email editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

This was first published in August 2013

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