Providing out-patients with monitoring systems tied to smart phones so they can report progress to doctors is a good call, according to healthcare providers.
“The first 30 days after an operation is critical,” said Dr. John Semple, surgeon in chief and head of the plastic surgery division at Women’s College. “It is within this period that most complications and re-admissions occur.”
Speaking at the Mobile Health Care Summit in Toronto yesterday, Semple said Women’s College partnered with Samsung, wireless service provider Rogers Communications and e-commerce and software-as-a-service hosting firm Tenzig Managed IT Services in a six-month project which sought to provide healthcare providers better insight into their patients’ recovery process.
The program involved a brief health assessment questionnaire embedded on Samsung Android-powered smart phones given to the patients. The questionnaire had to be answered and transmitted to their healthcare provider regularly. Patients also had to routinely take photos with the smart phones of their operation area or injuries and send the images back to the hospital.
Women’s College said it costs the healthcare system as much as $224,635 per 100 patients to cover expenses associated with out-patient care and re-admission. By using tools like the smart phone patient monitoring system, Semple said the cost can be cut by as much as 30 per cent.
A similar program to monitor mental health patients was initiated by the Lawson Health Research Institute, London Health Science Centre, the Canada Mental Health Association – London, Middlesex and Telus Health, the tele home care and e-health record division of Telus.
The program included an easy –to-use mobile apps that let patients:
- Indicate their moods and physical state at certain periods of the day;
- Record medication intake and side effects;
- Make specific reports available to the appropriate healthcare providers;
- Immediately contact essential people in their circle or care in case of emergency
“At first, people were very skeptical about us handing out iPhones to mental health patients,” said Mike Godin, housing advocacy team leader of CMHA – London Middlesex. “They said patients would likely lose the device or break them or sell them.”
Out of the 400 devices used in the study he said, only 12 were lost or broken.
“The patients learned the value of the technology. They knew it was useful and they were being empowered so they took ownership,” said Godin.
Care providers noticed marked changes in the mood of mental patients in the program. For instance, patients were able to identify and understand better what factors triggered emotional stresses and mood changes. Many became less stressed out and this showed in the marked decrease of panic attacks and emergency calls healthcare providers got from those in the program.
Handling, transmission and storage of data were carried out in compliance of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Personal Health Information Protection Act.
For example, The Women’s College project transmitted data with 256 bit SSL/TLS encryption and database servers used AES 256 bit encryption.
Mental health in patients in the London program tapped on “smily” and “frown” faces on their iPhones to indicate their mood. If they register a certain number of frown faces within a certain period, they were instructed to call their healthcare provider.