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A lot has been said about today's mobile apps, whether it's their ability to empower the patient or create a more portable practice for physicians. Yet according Michael Nusbaum, MD, founder at mobile application MedXCom, one of the most beneficial aspects of mobile applications could very well be more streamlined communication between doctor and patient.
Nusbaum highlights five ways mobile applications are streamlining patient-doctor communication.
1. Secure messaging. According to Nusbaum, certain mobile apps can accommodate HIPAA-compliant secure messaging from the doctor to the patient. Apps can "improve patients communicating with doctors and doctors communicating with patients, but at the same time provide doctors with the valuable information they need about the patient when they need it most," he says.
2. Appointment requests. Nusbaum says research indicates about 85 percent of patients would like to be able to request or schedule an appointment directly from their app. "And the whole system (should be) HIPAA compliant, so nothing is stored in your phone," he says. Ideally, he says, the database within an app should be encrypted so that the only way to access appointment requests and more is through the patient, who would be able to give permission to the doctor.
3. Sharing lab results. An efficient app should enable a doctor to access and share lab results with a patient. "So if you go to a lab and information is pushed to me, I can review it on my smartphone and I don't have to be in my office," says Nusbaum. "This makes it easy because I can do it wherever I am and whenever I have free time." If a doctor receives blood work, for example, he/she can review it on the app and then push the information to a patient portal or a smartphone. "And then they can say everything looks good, and let's check it again in six months," he says. "It makes it easier for the patient and the doctor."
4. Documenting personal health information. "The idea here is to reduce mistakes," says Nusbaum. Certain apps, he says, allow patients to scan in information from a driver's license or insurance card without either "ever leaving his or her hands. This way, each time you go into the office, you don't have to keep filling out the same forms. (The app) should also have a place for insurance info as part of a patient health profile."
5. Voice communication. Recording conversations between a doctor and a patient can come in handy during what Nusbaum calls "bad news deafness." "Whenever a patient hears something they're not happy with … (he/she) tends to blank out and they don't listen to anything the doctor says," he says. Some apps now allow doctors to record and share conversations with patients. "Systems can also transcribe conversations," he says. "This is important because a lot of the time doctors will give instructions to patients, and it's too much." For example, if a patient receives instructions for wound care, the doctor can forward all steps involved to an app or patient portal. "It goes over (what the doctor) told you, so that it reinforces the instructions," he says. "That's unique."
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