Telehealth & mHealth for Acute Care? There’s a Bunch of Apps for That

Healthcare mobilization (mHealth) is a growing trend, and one that is beneficial for both providers and patients. Healthcare is becoming increasingly available to patients whenever and wherever they need it.  It is an important tool for many situations – for those that need to go to the doctor often, or those that can’t find the time for even their yearly checkups, or for those mishaps that sometimes happen:

There are two groups in particular that have seen a greater need for this type of service – patients with chronic conditions and those with mental health issues. Programs in Colorado, Iowa and New York have already paved the way of this new type of patient care.

Telehealth for Chronic Conditions

Health apps, monitoring systems with Bluetooth capabilities, and electronic health records have granted patients the ability to pull their health history online, or get a helpful tip for their chronic condition in the form of a text message. Chronic conditions range from having a mostly normal life to needing assistance to get through the day. Through telehealth, a doctor can offer a busy mom with a mild chronic condition the personal touch of a video chat to check in. Or, a grandfather suffering severe pain and his caretaker who needs to weight in can have a consultative video conference with his doctor. All without causing patients any of the undue pain of travel or the discomfort of a waiting room.

On March 22, 2015, Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado signed a bill into law expanding telehealth services, which began in 2008. The telehealth service in Colorado provides subsidized broadband connectivity to 200 physical and behavioral healthcare sites. Providers have advocated for virtual care for patients to help with:

  • Managing chronic conditions.
  • Educating on diseases and home treatment.
  • Answering health-related maintenance advice from home.

The University of Iowa’s eHealth Extension Network began a similar initiative a year ago, after receiving a nearly $500,000 grant to bring needed equipment to rural healthcare facilities throughout Iowa. This includes telehealth carts, equipped with high quality video conferencing and cloud-based image sharing which will allow for better telehealth services to those who cannot get to their healthcare providers. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vislick said this investment meant that “people who live and work in rural areas will not have to travel long distances for specialized healthcare services.”

The more access we give to these patients through the convenience of their mobile phones, the more we can bring comfort to those with chronic conditions.

mHealth Services for Mental Health

Chronic conditions are not the only group that has seen a great need for this type of technology. People with mental diseases need greater and easier access to help, such as that offered in New York City.

TXT ME is a new campaign launched in New York City for teens that struggle with ailments such as substance abuse or depression. This pilot was the brainchild of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 20-year-old daughter, Chiara, who has seen these struggles herself: “I know from personal experience that reaching out when you’re in pain can be the turning point – the first step on the road to recovery.”

Simply text “TXT ME” to the helpline and a counselor will respond via text. They provide compassionate services, actively participate in the teen’s concerns, and help them get through whatever they need. They can also look up local counselors in the teen’s area to provide more help or face-to-face encounters. Technology has often been criticized for taking away some humanity from our day-to-day, however, programs like TXT ME take advantage of technology by offering care for those that need it.

Keeping Patient Care Focused on the Patient

Patients in need of acute care can especially benefit from the growing popularity and possibility of personal care through technology. Making services more easily available to these patients can lessen the chance of chronic pain or a mental health issue going untreated. And while telehealth and mHealth are valuable for practices, healthcare and technology are pushing the focus to the convenience and comfort of the patients.

Right now, rapidly changing technology is directly affecting healthcare. Healthcare is also changing through legislation. Telehealth has been caught in the crossfire, with many people supporting covering telehealth– particularly those in defense of the elderly on Medicare – because it allows for the personal touch, without the cost or time of travel for the patient or doctor. To protect these patients, bringing technology to personal care is becoming better regulated all the time to mitigate the chances of privacy, or data errors.

As technology continues to advance, we will certainly see an increase of these trends. Hopefully, with more initiatives focusing on the specialized, ongoing needs of those with chronic conditions and those with mental health issues. mHealth and telehealth services are working towards the same goal: helping patients find the appointments and care they need faster and easier.