The role of mobile in healthcare


Rhode Island Hospital physician says early research into mobile health applications looks promising for emergency medicine follow-up care

Mobile technology allows physicians to provide more consistent post-discharge care, education

– Many organizations -- utility companies, schools, cities and others -- rely on text messaging to alert customers or residents to important information. So why not doctors?

A Rhode Island Hospital emergency medicine physician says in a new editorial that while mobile health, or mHealth, may transform health care delivery, it will be particularly beneficial for emergency medicine clinicians and patients. The editorial by Megan L. Ranney, M.D., MPH, is published online in advance of print in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine.

"Emergency medicine physicians are a unique breed – we treat patients at some of the most critical moments of their lives, the scariest times, when they are brought into the emergency department; and then we discharge them," Ranney said. "Often their visit was caused by some underlying disease or behavior that we can't fix in the moment. We can write prescriptions at discharge, tell them to follow up with their primary care doctors. But once they are out the door, they are no longer our patient, so it's difficult to help."

Ranney continued, "But with mHealth, emergency medicine physicians can improve patients' health after discharge. For example, we could send them a text message or suggest an app to remind patients to call their primary care doctor, to take a medicine, to look into an education or support group, or to help them change behavior. The goal is to ensure that patients follow their discharge orders and receive appropriate follow-up care and support."

Research into mHealth is still in its infancy, she said, but it's critical for researchers to help develop and evaluate the most effective mobile tools possible. If well-designed and implemented, mHealth tools may encourage patients to get involved in their own care, and may ultimately improve outcomes and reduce readmission rates.

Ranney's principal affiliation is Rhode Island Hospital, and she also holds an academic appointment as an assistant professor of emergency medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.