While mHealth is often discussed in the context of patient-facing health and wellness apps, mHealth can also benefit providers by making clinical patient data more accessible and actionable for everyone involved in the care delivery process, patients included. Many of the mHealth apps hospitals and physicians are investing in are being developed with workflow efficiency, and patient engagement and satisfaction in mind. By integrating with clinical data systems, these apps enable care circle members to make real-time evidence-based decisions. This is just one of the many ways mHealth apps are transforming care delivery for healthcare provider organizations.

As we all know, EMRs often make physicians’ workflows more complex and care delivery less efficient. To minimize desk time, many physicians are adopting mHealth apps that enable them to access and update patient health information stored in EMRs from their smartphones or tablets. Many hospitals and health systems have introduced patient apps that extend patient portals onto patients’ smartphones and tablets in order to achieve Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements. These apps often offer other value add functions—such as appointment scheduling, directory access, virtual concierge and more—to improve patient engagement and boost HCAHPS (patient satisfaction) scores.

When it comes to extending clinical data, mHealth apps should address each of the below considerations:

  1. Regulatory specifications: Integration with clinical data systems will require that your app is in compliance with HIPAA regulations
  2. Protocols: Apps developed with FHIR and HL7 protocols enable physicians and clinicians to access and update patient health information that’s stored in EMRs from their smartphones. With these same protocols, your mHealth app can extend patient portals to patients’ smartphones.
  3. Physician-friendliness: Physicians need to be able to find their patients’ medical records as quickly as possible so that their focus can remain on patients. This should be a 2-3 step process. Text should be large enough to be read at a glance.
  4. Patient-friendliness: The design and functionality of your app should be intuitive for patients in the baby boomer generation who lack digital literacy. These patients are the lowest common denominator of your patient populations—what they find easy to use the overwhelming majority other patients will, too. Completing app functions should take no more than a few steps, and patients should be able to customize the font- and icon-size of their app’s features in its settings.

What other suggestions do you have for those interested in developing an mHealth app that serves as a clinical decision-making or patient engagement tool? Share your lessons learned and experiences in the comments.