Population Health: mHealth Apps Hold Promise For Effective Chronic Disease Management

 

Should your organization build its own mhealth app?

With the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, our country is rapidly moving healthcare into a more technologically advanced and population-minded space. With the PPACA looking to cover more Americans and encourage organizations to manage populations, we see a growing need to create powerful data gathering and analytical resources and new processes in order to bare the financial risk and manage populations more broadly. This is further compounded by the progressive migration from procedure-based reimbursement to value-based. With the HITECH Act encouraging and incentivizing meaningful use through the adoption of electronic health records, leveraging mobile health applications to enlist patient participation in gathering and providing personal data to better manage chronic disease states begs the discussion that combining these two strong suggestions can lead to a more effectively managed, and thus healthier, population.  

Many mHealth apps are available through the two major mobile platforms of Android and iOS for chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and others. However, few if any are currently integrated into large platform health system EHRs. Further research shows that the major vendors of EHRs such as market leader EPIC have not yet created applications that help manage chronic diseases, while connected with the patient's health information. However, EPIC and other EHR vendors have developed patient portals that can be accessed through client websites.

Should large medical groups or hospital systems build their own mobile app platform or consider partnering with an existing app vendor or group of app vendors by disease state? Chronic disease management apps are beneficial to the patient and for hospital systems moving into accountable care; however, until there is more technological synergy between EHRs and mHealth apps there are many pros and cons for health systems engaging this growing market.

Should your organization build its own mhealth app?

Pros:

  • Fully customized to the system's specifications and EHR
  • Complete control of timeline and development of building the app
  • Greater security and compliance control

Cons:

  • Could be a complicated endeavor to communicate with a proprietary EHR
  • May have to hire more staff to create and maintain the app

Should your organization buy from a third-party software company?

Pros:

  • Set cost for the purchased app
  • Focused expertise and support available from the mHealth App vendor
  • Still fair amount of control on development

Cons:

  • May be difficult to integrate with EHR
  • Another vendor to work with

Should your organization buy an mHealth solution from an EHR vendor?

Pros:

  • Easily interoperable with EHR
  • May be less costly in the short term

Cons:

  • EHR may not have specific chronic disease management applications available
  • App not fully customized to the system's liking
  • Further lock-in to EHR vendor system

The solution depends on the organization and at what point they are in meaningful use and how flexible one might be with creating population-based solutions. Chronic disease management is and full be an important part of providing quality care in the United States and remains a growing area of focus for Medicare and commercial payers. Creating an experience for patients with these diseases to better manage their care will be crucial in improving the health of Americans.

Les Jebson is an administrator, Albert Turull, project assistant, and Sandra Lawson, research coordinator, with Jacksonville, Fla.-based UF Health.

 

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