A 2014 white paper released by researchers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital reveals that “patients who use mHealth tools are more likely to adhere to self-monitoring requirements and, in turn, have significantly improved outcomes.”
The white paper examines the concept of the pediatric patient-centered medical home (PCMH), defined by the Academy of Pediatrics as a place where care for pediatric patients would be accessible, continuous, comprehensive, family-centered, coordinated, compassionate, and culturally effective. Research by white paper authors Michael Slaper and Kimberly Conkol indicates that mHealth tools can bridge the gaps in care that have historically plagued PCMH models.
Specifically, the study centers around the uses and benefits of mobile applications in assisting with chronic clinical care. There were more than 259,000 healthcare-related apps in 2016 (a 57% increase over 2015), and 61% of the population have at one point downloaded an mHealth app. What does this increasing app prevalence mean for the future of mHealth?
According to the white paper, apps have become a viable solution to support the PCMH and chronic care model (CCM) theories. Physicians can provide apps to their patients which enable them to more effectively self-manage their chronic conditions, just as technologically engaged patients can provide more complete information about the results of their treatment plan to their doctors.
“Ultimately,” the white paper argues, “this is mutually beneficial to both groups as patients work in synergy with their providers toward achieving desired outcomes.”
The research has provided no lack of specific strategies through which healthcare applications can improve patient care. Patients can use apps to communicate with their provider team, educate themselves on the course of their treatment, monitor their progress or compliance in regards to their treatment plan, and reinforce positive self-management habits, all of which reduce the time needed for actual one-on-one, physical time spent between physicians and their chronic care patients.
The white paper takes care to warn, however, against trusting all healthcare apps indiscriminately. As the researchers point out, “not all apps are created equally.” The study recommends that physicians focus on apps which were developed in relation to the five key processes of self-management: assisted decision-making, goal-setting, tracking, knowledge assessment, and learning. Apps guiding their users through these processes will be the most supportive for the PCMH and CCM models.
After admitting the disparity in effectiveness between various healthcare apps, the researchers close by reinforcing the idea that ultimately, “apps have the ability to enhance the patient-provider relationship…long-term acceptance [of apps] as a certifiable clinical tool will depend on their ability to adhere to federal guidelines, their effectiveness at driving outcomes, and their integration into provider work-flow processes.”
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