Meaningful Use Needs Mobile Magic

Mobile technology could play a huge role in meeting the federal MU regulations, but the Stage 2 rulebook virtually ignores this potential.

Paul Cerrato, Contributor

October 8, 2012

4 Min Read

11 Super Mobile Medical Apps

11 Super Mobile Medical Apps

11 Super Mobile Medical Apps (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Mobile apps and devices have taken the healthcare industry by storm. So why is the word "mobile" mentioned only once in the 672 pages of Meaningful Use Stage 2 regulations? One can only guess the rationale behind that decision, but several experts see the need for more emphasis in this arena.

Pam Matthews, senior director of regional affairs at HIMSS, for instance, was recently quoted in a mHIMSS post as saying how mobile technology could help meet MU requirements for more patient engagement and data exchange: "[Y]et in the final rule they remained silent on mobile. HIMSS supports the development of guidelines to achieve transitions of care through patient-centered mobile interfaces. We encourage consideration of including mobile health technology in future stages of meaningful use."

Robert Jarrin, senior director of government affairs at Qualcomm, made a similar point in the same article, written by Eric Wicklund, editor of mHIMSS. Again emphasizing the fact that the Stage 2 regs put a premium on patient engagement, giving the public the ability to view and download health data, Jarrin says, "access to health information can be provided by any means of electronic transmission according to any transport standard. ... This is an enormous opportunity for certified EHRs and EHR systems to harness the power and ubiquity of mobile broadband connectivity to make health information available via smartphones, laptops, tablet PCs, pads and mobile medical devices."

It's a shame the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services didn't spend more time encouraging the use of mobile technology in the MU regs. A recent phone interview with Matthew Holt, co-chairman of the popular Health 2.0 Conference, made it clear that there's a lot going on in this arena worth paying attention to. And while Holt and I didn't talk specifically about Meaningful Use, his comments are nonetheless relevant.

[ Why is mobile so important? Read More Consumers Get Health Info On Mobile Devices. ]

Before we dived into specific mobile medical apps, Holt made a point of saying that mobile tools shouldn't be artificially separated from all the other health IT applications and platforms now in use.

"I'm not a fan of calling something mHealth. People tend to think of mobile as this weird separate thing," he said. His point being that mobile technology is just one component of an overall IT strategy. The vast majority of successful applications in healthcare technology will eventually "include the same data and a similar experience whether you're on a cell phone, a 7-inch tablet, an iPad, a computer, or a TV," says Holt. In that context, "calling something mobile or not mobile won't really make sense." Perhaps that's why CMS didn't see the need to devote much discussion to mobile technology in the Stage 2 regulations, assuming that providers would simply use the technology to extend their overall game plan.

So what exactly is out there in the mobile world to help hospitals and practices achieve their overall IT strategy?

Holt mentioned mobile EHRs during our discussion, including Allscripts Wand. It's a native iPad app that gives clinicians access to the company's EHR system. It was designed from the ground up to work on the tablet, offering many of the features of the server-based EHR and allowing patient data to move back and forth from the device to the server.

Similarly there's the Dr Chrono EHR, which started out as an iPad application and remains so. Holt also mentioned Practice Fusion, which originally had a Web-based EHR that's accessed on a desktop computer, and now has an iPad version.

There are also several tools built for smartphones or other small devices that can help providers meet Meaningful Use regs. In the hospital setting, there's an app called Patient Touch from PatientSafe Solutions, which works on an iPod Touch using a hospital's Wi-Fi system, explained Holt. The app is designed primarily for nurses to help them do documentation. For instance, the app lets clinicians view patient information, schedule medication, assign care team members, and keep track of important messages and interventions.

So regardless of how much ink the federal government gives to mobile technology in its rulebook, there's little doubt that finding the right apps and devices will help providers achieve MU milestones faster and easier.

About the Author(s)

Paul Cerrato


Paul Cerrato has worked as a healthcare editor and writer for 30 years, including for InformationWeek Healthcare, Contemporary OBGYN, RN magazine and Advancing OBGYN, published by the Yale University School of Medicine. He has been extensively published in business and medical literature, including Business and Health and the Journal of the American Medical Association. He has also lectured at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and Westchester Medical Center.

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