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National HIT Week: Celebrating a Decade of Innovation

This is the first in a series of blogs in recognition of National HIT Week by celebrating a decade in healthcare technology innovation.

The Electronic Health Record and mHealth: Spanning time and space to improve care, efficiencies and clinical decision-making

Medical_Tech_1005.jpgThe Electronic Health Record (EHR) and mobile health technologies have contributed greatly to the innovation in healthcare to improve lives, create efficiencies and bring the opportunity for better healthcare to all, regardless of location or economic status. Here’s how:

Aside from its acronym, one that today’s computers and touchscreens only recognize as being of the female persuasion, the EHR is a digital version of a patient’s medical chart that makes information available instantly and securely to authorized users. In addition to containing a patient’s medical and treatment history, it also has been developed to provide a broader, more inclusive view of the type of care a person is receiving.  Its ultimate goals can be categorized by:

  • Better healthcare – improving all aspects of the patient care prescription such as safety, effectiveness, communication, education, timeliness, efficiency, and patient-centeredness.
  • Better health – encouraging healthy lifestyles including increased physical activity, better nutrition, avoiding behavioral risks and wider use of preventive care.
  • Improved efficiencies and lower health care costs by promoting preventative medicine and improved coordination of care services, reducing waste and redundant testing.
  • Better clinical decision-making by integrating patient information from various sources.

Development of the EHR can be traced back to the 1960’s and ‘70s as medical care became more complex and academic medical centers developed their own systems. Since that time, the EHR has evolved into a medical necessity in terms of creating efficiencies that have become a mainstay of the Affordable Care Act, and becoming a repository for the plethora of data from clinicians and tools such as mobile and digital devices.

Mobile Health (or mHealth) has also become one of the biggest technology trends in healthcare today. And, there are thousands of mobile technologies available, including sleep monitors, stress checkers, and diet and fitness trackers, including wearables such as Fitbit and Jawbone. The mHealth marketplace is being driven by the explosive growth in the smartphone industry, with over 140 million smartphone users in the U.S. That number is expected to rise to over 200 million within the next five years, according to Forbes.

While technology entrepreneurs see the mHealth market as the next great business opportunity, the healthcare industry has been slow to adapt. Approximately only 10 percent (36 million) of Americans according to Forbes, have ever used mHealth technologies such as telemedicine. And, despite the more than 20,000 healthcare-related smartphone apps available today, a 2012 Pew Research Center study found that only 10 percent of smartphone users have downloaded a healthcare app.

Despite the difficulties with adoption, including a lack of standardization of mobile platforms and medical apps, the outlook for mHealth is good as healthcare providers develop innovative new ways to offer quality healthcare at lower costs.