Why You Should Care about eHealth

August 1, 2014

How we can use our phones to help improve clients’ health and well-being

Most of us are familiar with mobile devices and apps that collect basic information about health, calorie burning and personal activities so we can track and learn about our personal health. Running apps and diet tracking apps spring to mind immediately.

These apps and devices are transforming how people use information about themselves and how they make decisions about their health. The potential for this type of technology to help services improve health and well-being for their clients is slowly being realised. [1].

In recent years, there has been a growing fascination with using data to improve outcomes for patients and services delivery. In an article from Wired, Stephen F. Deangelis examines practitioners using data collected from mobile devices are transforming medical care. Medical researchers are using activity trackers, like Nike Fuel Band and Fit Bit, to remotely monitor a patient’s activity [3].

eHealth technologies fall under five main categories:

  • Client management systems (CRM) – Software platforms designed for services to collect and manage information in a way that improves quality and efficiency, and supports client work and organisational learning. Some platforms are designed using cloud technology that easily allows information sharing among staff.
  • Electronic health records (EHR) – Digital records used by services to improve the collection, storage and transmission of client information, and reduce the duplication of information.
  • Activity monitoring devices – These devices capture basic information about your personal activities such as calorie burning and fitness level. In most cases, they come with mobile apps that help to visualize and monitor progress over time. Products include the Nike Fuel Band and Fit Bit.
  • Mobile apps – These tools are designed for personal mobile devices (like iPhones and tablets). Rather than focusing on a single area, mobile apps are tools covering multiple aspects of health, such as weight, heart rate, blood pressure and medication. Mobile apps are typically being used to monitor progress, deliver health information and support individual interventions, by providing timed reminders or medical advice, like The Carrot and Lose It.
  • Digital solutions – There are a variety of websites and online resources for health information, which are condition-specific or profession-specific.

For service providers, the adoption of eHealth technologies can lead to a number of improvements in quality and efficiency. Research has found that benefits include:

  • Improved access to quality health information
  • Strengthened relationships and communication between patients and providers
  • Increased administrative efficiencies and reduced duplication of data
  • Improved transmission of patient information
  • Solutions to challenging barriers like distance and language [4][5]

Case Study: Digital Solutions for Social Services

Podcasts are an innovative example of how mobile devices and apps being used by practitioners in social services. In an article for the Guardian Patricia Fronek found that professionals in health and social services were using podcasts to share knowledge, skills and experience across the sector. Podsocs is a podcast for social workers with 70 podcasts available on a variety of topics with guest practitioners and experts from around the world. [2]

Our work in this field

At Quality Matters, we are interested in using data to improve outcomes for service users. One way that we are using eHealth technology to improve health and social services is through eCASS. eCASS is a client management system developed in partnership between IT charity ENCLUDE, Quality Matters and addiction services across the country. The system is currently being used by 33 drug and alcohol services across the country, with another 20 services expected to implement it over the next six months.

With eCASS, we aim to address the challenges that addiction services face with information gathering, understanding impact, and reporting to funders. As this project develops, we continue to search for innovative ways to integrate mobile devices and apps to improve service provision and client outcomes.

1. Byrnes N (2014) Can Mobile Technologies and Big Data Improve Health? In: MIT Technol. Rev. http://www.technologyreview.com/news/529011/can-technology-fix-medicine/. Accessed 30 Jul 2014
2. Fronek P, lecturer senior, University G, Australia (2014) Podcasts offer a portable resource for social workers. The Guardian
3. Contributors I (2014) Patient Monitoring, Big Data, and the Future of Healthcare | Innovation Insights | Wired.com. In: Innov. Insights. http://innovationinsights.wired.com/insights/2014/08/patient-monitoring-big-data-future-healthcare/. Accessed 12 Aug 2014
4. Buntin MB, Burke MF, Hoaglin MC, Blumenthal D (2011) The Benefits Of Health Information Technology: A Review Of The Recent Literature Shows Predominantly Positive Results. Health Aff (Millwood) 30:464–471
5. Mukherjee A, McGinnis J (2007) E-healthcare: an analysis of key themes in research. Int J Pharm Healthc Mark 1:349–363

About the author

Philip Isard is a Project Specialist at Quality Matters. Philip’s main interests are research, communications, social media and design.

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