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MHealth clinical apps impacting care, not just with consumers

MHealth clinical applications are helping shape better patient outcomes, especially in radiology practices.

While personal health tracking devices like Fitbit and Jawbone grab the lion's share of mHealth headlines, mHealth clinical apps have had an impact on clinicians. In healthcare workflows, applications can be used both for reference on mobile devices and prescribed for patient use.

The mHealth reference apps afford clinicians access to medical information. They also gather and aggregate patient data such as vital signs. EHR vendors are offering new add-ons and functionality through mobile device apps, too, which enable physician mobility. In total there are more than a million mobile health clinical apps available, which counts as one of the fastest-growing markets for developers making apps on different platforms.

Radiology is one group of specialists poised to benefit from mHealth apps. Radiologists are seeing a number of vendor apps designed to enable access to their special trinity of health data systems: radiology information systems, picture archiving and communications systems, and vendor neutral archives (VNAs). With the ongoing trends and increased adoption for cloud-based secure storage, as well implementation of VNA, mobile apps will find their way into the hands of radiologists at a much faster rate.

EHR vendors are offering new add-ons and functionality through mobile device apps, which enable physician mobility.

This is the result of having more centralized repositories that can support different data sharing and collaboration requirements. Mobile devices will also enable many radiologists to gain faster access to imaging -- in some cases this can be a life-saving practice -- for example, when a patient is admitted to the emergency room with a stroke.

Mobile devices also provide additional efficiencies from the standpoint of easy access and ease of use. For the benefit of HIPAA compliance in case of lost devices, several apps provide remote viewing capabilities so that images are not loaded and stored on mobile devices, but are streamed.

Prior to a mobile clinical app's getting into the hands of a radiologist, it must pass FDA clearance. That includes any app that provides functionality such as viewing medical imaging for diagnosis purposes, or has wireless controls or a synchronization device for MRI or X-ray machines.

Mobile apps that provide access to images can also bring functionality to reporting and patient data sharing activities. Their use among radiologists will increase as device-display quality improves, cellular and Wi-Fi bandwidth increases, and the FDA continues to clear more and more applications for clinical use.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development with Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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This was last published in February 2014

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