Do’s and Don’ts of mobile/mHealth strategy for hospitals and HCPs

January 13, 2012

I recently wrote, in Do’s and Don’ts of hospital health IT, that you shouldn’t make long-term decisions on mobile app platforms like iOS and Android because the mobile world is still quite young and the war between Apple, Microsoft, and Google is nowhere near being resolved. A couple of readers, in the comments section (thanks Anne and DDS), asked me to elaborate mobile and mHealth strategy for healthcare professionals (HCPs) and hospitals.

A couple of the key points were:

  • (Anne) how can you avoid making long-term mobile decisions at this point?  After all, hospitals that don’t steer their doctors are going to be managing whatever technology the doctors invest in, aren’t they?
  • (DDS) the risk is that people will take this to mean that they shouldn’t move at all on mobile app platforms, and this would be a mistake. This is the perennial issue with health IT; if it’s not perfect, then wait.

The approach I recommend right now for mobile apps, if you’re developing them yourself, is to stay focused on HTML5 browser-based apps and not native apps. So, to answer Anne’s and DDS’s question specifically, no you shouldn’t wait to allow usage of mobile apps by anyone; but, if you’re looking to build your own apps and deploy them widely (not in simple experiments or pilots) then you shouldn’t write to iOS or Android or WP7 but instead use HTML5 frameworks like AppMobi and PhoneGap that give you almost the same functionality but protect you from the underlying platform wars. In the end, HTML5 will likely win and it’s cross-platform and quite functional for most common use cases. If you’re not developing the apps yourself and using third-party apps, then of course you must support the use of iOS native, Android native, and soon Windows native apps on your network.

So, from a general perspective you should embrace mHealth but do so in a strategic, not tactical manner. Here are the most critical questions to answer in a mHealth strategy — it’s not a simple one size fits all approach:

  • How will you allow doctors’ or patients’ own devices within your hospitals / organizations — simply by providing connectivity and wireless access on the production network or some other means?
  • How will you allow doctors’ own devices to connect to hospital IT systems?
  • How will you extend hospital IT systems via hospital-owned mobile devices?
  • How will you allow the hospital or organization to “prescribe” the use of apps to patients and track the usage of apps?
  • How will you approve or deny the use of certain apps that may not meet FDA regulations if they get close to MDDS or Class 1/2/3 devices?

If there is interest in this topic, I will expand on my list of Do’s and Don’ts — mHealth is a very complex topic and requires a good strategy. Just saying that you allow the use of mobile devices like smartphones in your hospital is not an mHealth strategy. :-)

  • Natalie hodge md FAAP

    Wow, that quote by anne is telling ” hospitals that don’ t steer their doctors…” is offensive to me ( clearly I’m a doc that fails to be steered by suits) Mobile is not an afterthought that you use in a press release… It is a massive behavior modification platform that will eliminate obesity, reduce smoking, help patients self track disease states and take necessary medicine.

  • http://www.shahidshah.com Shahid N. Shah

    Thanks, Natalie, for the comment. I always love to hear from MDs. You are quite correct that mobile shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought and requires a well reasoned strategy. What kinds of successful mobile strategies have you seen in the hospitals you’ve visited? Perhaps others can learn from successful implementations. Thanks again.

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  • http://twitter.com/malleshm Mallesh Murugesan

    Shahid,
    Thanks for shedding light on this topic. I would like to know more about mobile strategy surrounding HTML5 (for in house development) vs Native apps (for third party apps). Why is that distinction based on how and where the app is developed? Shouldn’t it be based on what the capabilities of the mobile app is? Thanks again

  • http://www.shahidshah.com Shahid N. Shah

    Hi Mallesh — the reason there is a distinction is that you can control inhouse development and influence its technology but can’t really control or influence 3rd party apps. 

  • Endoindiana

    We have a few tablets for rounding, showing patients labs and radiology imaging.  We use desktop and WOW for documenting in patient encounters. We have several departments who use tablet/keyboard combos for ambulatory documentation. We have no paper allowed (of course we have paper) . all CPOE and computer documenting, all eRx (except for all the DME)  We have mobile apps only for our secure patient portal (iphone, ipad, android ). we use lots of Dragon. I would love mobile apps for ECG and fetal monitoring. 180 providers in multiple specialties and a modest hostpial. 11

  • http://www.shahidshah.com Shahid N. Shah

    Excellent, sounds impressive. Interested in writing up a guest article elaborating on how you did it all? Click on “Request Guest Article” in the menu bar above if you’re interested. 

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