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Mobile devices facilitate remote patient monitoring

Physicians' comfort with mobile devices allows some to interact with and observe patients in their homes, without need for an office visit.

Medical advice and medication aren't the only things some physicians in Charlotte, North Carolina are handing out these days. Some are introducing a number of devices to their patients to assist with telemedicine. Many have accepted these remote patient monitoring devices as part of their regular care and have also taken to using them as a means to quickly communicate with their physicians without leaving the comfort of their homes...

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Mobile devices are the top choice for patients who need to maintain an open line of communication with their caregiver between office visits. More specifically, tablets are a popular choice for patients to use to stay in contact with their physicians. The following is a partial list of the advantages of tablet use.

  • Cost efficiency
  • Platform flexibility
  • Connectivity capability (Wi-Fi or cellular 3G/4G)
  • Display size
  • Battery life
  • Data collection
  • Patient engagement

From a patient's perspective, there are three major values that these devices provide.

Provider access

In a traditional setting, patients are scheduled for follow-up visits with their physician. For individuals residing in rural areas, transportation can be time-consuming and costly. By way of their tablets, patients can schedule and attend virtual visits. Chronically ill patients can schedule a quick checkup, and patients being treated for a shorter-term injury or illness can virtually follow up with their physician -- all possible from the convenience of their homes. Equipment with electrocardiogram, blood pressure and oxygen saturation measurement capabilities make them even more appealing to patients and physicians because they offer more advanced ways of tracking patients' health.

Video conferencing and e-visits

Many of the devices being prescribed by providers offer video conferencing capabilities. During a virtual encounter, patients can interact with their care providers and share any health concerns they have. Occasionally, showing certain physical symptoms can provide adequate information to avoid a visit to the office. In Charlotte, some practices include multiple specialists during a video conference to provide additional assistance or to determine if a primary care physician requires an in-person patient referral. Being introduced to the specialist and viewing the interaction between their caregivers can provide a patient with peace of mind that their care will go on uninterrupted. This type of collaboration will likely grow as more practices join ACOs. This will lead to more care teams linking up and virtually collaborating to discuss patients' conditions.

Proactive coaching and patient education

Other applications available on mobile devices include lifestyle coaching, activity tracking and monitoring. From a healthcare perspective, the value of mobile devices is boosted by all of the mHealth apps in the marketplace. Patient education on specific conditions, proactive medication alerts and routine checks on blood pressure and glucose levels are tasks that can be completed by remote patient monitoring tools.

As mobile device manufacturers continue to make their devices more compatible with mHealth apps, patients' and providers' interest in using these devices to improve patient outcomes will grow. There are a few concerns -- namely, security, device protection, cost and integration with existing EHR solutions -- that are holding some back from fully embracing mobile devices.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at 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 first published in July 2014

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