CHICAGO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – A majority of health providers use some form of mobile technology to engage patients, but only half have experienced improved care coordination or cost savings from doing so.

The new data comes from a study presented April 14 at the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. The survey of 238 health providers found 90% of respondents use at least one type of mobile device to engage patients. Fifty-one percent indicated the technology affected their ability to greatly impact or coordinate patient care, while another 41% reported they had not experienced a strong impact on care coordination.

Similarly, 54% of respondents reported they achieved cost savings based on mobile technology use, while 42% were unsure about the effect on cost savings, and 3% said the technology had not yielded cost savings.

The most common mobile technology used was app-enabled patient portals (73%). At least half of respondents reported using telehealth services (62%) or text messaging (57%) with patients.

About one-third indicated a high degree of effectiveness in engaging patients using app-enabled patient portals, while 27% reported the same using telehealth services, such as video consults. Apps, such as prescribing apps, were least likely to engage patients.

Telehealth services and app-enabled patient portals also were the top technologies for future investment, said Jennifer Horowitz, HIMSS senior director for research.

Physicians and other health providers “are starting to see some really good traction with these types of technologies so they’re planning on moving forward with them in the future,” she said. “Organizations are starting out on their journey, and they need to continue on that journey to make sure these are effective technologies for their patients.”

Only 8% of respondents reported that all data captured by mobile devices was integrated into their electronic health record system (EHR). Another 6% said at least three-quarters of data was integrated; a third (32%) said no mobile data was integrated into their EHR.

“That leaves a really wide road to opportunity for health care organizations to make sure they’re creating a strategy to integrate that data into their environment,” Ms. Horowitz said.

Respondents noted that telehealth interventions had the greatest impact on care coordination, particularly in radiology and neurology.

When it comes to saving money, respondents reported the primary cost savers were mobile-enhanced preventive care, wellness management, and disease surveillance.

For physicians, the survey results highlight the importance of utilizing mobile technology as they adapt to changing health care rules and new models of care delivery, David A. Collins, HIMSS senior director of health information systems said in an interview.

“To align themselves with the demands of the health care system – the value-based system, the [accountable care organization concept] – technology is a tool to be leveraged to achieve those cost savings,” Mr. Collins said in an interview. “Its a lot cheaper to issue $800 worth of equipment to a patient than it is to have them readmitted and lose thousands of dollars” in subsequent care.

The 2015 HIMSS Mobile Technology Study analyzed responses from health care executives, physicians, health providers, and IT specialists between Jan. 15, 2015, and Feb. 13, 2015. The respondents worked for hospitals, medical practices, health systems, and other health care entities, such as academic medical centers and emergency services providers. 
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