Labs Need to Embrace m-Health
We have all got fairly used to the concept of e-healthcare in recent years. It is the odd healthcare organization, laboratory or physician office that depends mostly on paper records anymore. From legibility to patient safety to access to patient information across the continuum of care it makes sense to use computers and the internet rather than paper.
I experienced the seamless use of e-health delivery recently when I went to see a physician who was a member of my HMO. I went to an office that was convenient to where I was attending a seminar-as opposed to going to see my regular physician. My medical record, including lab results and medication list, was immediately available and my (astute) physician was pretty conversant with my history by the time I saw him in the examination room. I needed a paper prescription and it was printed out on secure counterfeit-free paper and available to me at check out.
A subset of e-health is the area of m-health or mobile healthcare. Just about every business has an app (application) these days that can run on a smartphone operating system platform. Increasingly healthcare is joining the app revolution. A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP predict that globally m-health will be a $23 billion market by the year 2017, of which the US will account for about 28 percent.
I had the option of getting my detailed discharge instructions printed in the office or emailed to me along with a copy of the receipt for my co-pay. I chose email, instead of detailing with reams of paper with the risk of misplacing them; or having the formation end up in the wrong hands.
Providing as much vital information as it does the clinical laboratory must start looking at the adoption of m-health sooner than later. Possible uses include
Ability to email a provider directly
Receiving lab results by text or email. At a minimum, patients and providers should have the option of being advised that results are ready; and then being able to access a secure portal where the actual result is viewable
Being able to easily track, trend and graph lab results over time
Accessing results of lab tests done outside the traditional system (such as while traveling) and therefore not otherwise available to the regular provider
Storing scannable patient identification: medical record number, unique identifiers
Being able to make and confirm appointments with a provider or the outpatient laboratory through text or email
Increased health literacy by accessing information about use and/or interpretation of lab results individualized by patient
To be sure there will be issues of security and confidentiality. Systems must have inter-operability without a significant risk of leaks. Sensitive information has to be restricted and accessible only to those who have a genuine “need to know.” But these requirements can be met; in fact more confidently than with paper records and through telephone calls.
First we had voice and paper, then e-health and now m-health. For the laboratory with its masses of vital time-sensitive data, the opportunities are both positive and endless.