Mobile technology is a game changer in healthcare. Devices help fill critical gaps in communication and reduce the time it takes for providers and other healthcare workers to gain awareness of new information and respond. When it comes to the care of patients at risk for suicide, this can be critical as any time lost could mean the loss of a life.
Mobile devices are also unique in their ability to drive patient engagement and to virtually connect patients, providers and other stakeholders. Imagine if you will, an on demand telemedicine appointment with a Veteran identified to be at risk for suicide that for some reason did not present to clinic for an appointment that was scheduled. The possibilities are endless.
Mobile devices are increasingly ubiquitous in today’s society. According to data released by StatCounter, in the month of October 2016, for the first time in history, more users worldwide accessed the web from mobile devices (51.3%) than they did from desktops and laptops (48.7%). Thus, mobile devices are increasingly becoming the platform of choice for sending, accessing and receiving information, particularly amongst consumers.
While the use of mobile devices in the enterprise sector is less, for example in healthcare provider organizations where accessing patient protected health information is part and parcel to daily operations, this is an area of mobile device usage that nonetheless continues to grow. In fact, even federal healthcare entities, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), are increasingly using mobile platforms to provide access to patient data, to facilitate more efficient patient care, and to improve provider-to-provider or provider-to-patient communications. The VA, for example, has an enterprise app store via their Office of Connected Health. In the VA app store, approved mobile applications are available to Veterans and VA care teams permitting safe, secure, and mobile access to patient data.
The adoption of mobile platforms to address needs in the healthcare sector is poised to continue as strategies and technologies for securing these mobile devices continue to evolve and improve and in particular, as use cases emerge that truly benefit and deliver superior outcomes leveraging mobile platforms versus the status quo.
One area in which mobile devices may create value is in the provision of care to patients at risk for suicide. Mobile devices offer a great opportunity to engage with patients more frequently and conveniently. For those familiar with the ‘quantified self’ movement, mobile devices are a unique platform via which data acquisition about a person's daily life and activities can be acquired, logged and / or transmitted. Wikipedia’s definition of the quantified self: “...a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs (food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance, whether mental or physical”. This is data that individual consumers may find useful for themselves, but one could imagine that if an individual were to give permission to have this data sent to healthcare provider organizations tooled to analyze this data, that it could hold some valuable insights, particularly in the case of identifying issues or changes over time that could indicate someone may be contemplating suicide. While there are certainly privacy issues and not everyone would necessarily want to sign up for a service like this, the potential to utilize machine learning or so called ‘artificial intelligence’ to derive meaning from patterns in this data could be very powerful.
There are also opportunities to leverage mobile platforms to help healthcare provider organizations deliver better care to patients that are at high risk for suicide as this is a population of patients for whom healthcare and mental health services and interventions often need to be delivered methodically and promptly. With the ability to leverage push notifications and other real time communication techniques in combination with algorithms and models trained via machine learning that identify or predict scenarios that may need to be escalated immediately to the attention of providers, case managers or social workers, mobile platforms are very attractive. In addition, the opportunity to present real time performance metric data continuously including data visualizations that provide situational awareness about how care processes are currently functioning are powerful ways to improve the transparency of clinical operations and as such can help healthcare provider organizations assess, monitor and improve their care processes continually. One case in point is Iconic Data’s Patient Case Manager (PCM)™ which, via its Suicide Prevention Manager™, leverages mobile technology to enable providers, social workers, case managers and facility managers and leaders to be virtually connected, receive notifications, and manage, execute, and monitor key clinical suicide prevention workflows.
The reality in healthcare is no healthcare worker is tethered to their desk around the clock and as such, ignoring the opportunity to augment care delivery processes and infrastructure with mobile technology, handicaps healthcare provider organizations from engaging in the next frontier of optimizing the provision of care they provide to patients. One thing is for sure, missed opportunities to act on new information abound in healthcare; the good news is mobile technology can help fill the gaps and ensure that potential missed opportunities are identified and prevented from causing patient harm.