In Dr. David Lee Scher’s recent blog post, “Five Ways Professional Medical Societies Can Speed the Adoption of Mobile Digital Health Tools,” he discusses the advancement of mobile digital health tools through professional medical societies. “There have been many stated roles of professional medical societies,” said Dr. Scher “including, standardization of care, promoting public health, and improving leadership in medicine.” All of these roles are now able to be facilitated with digital health technologies. Today, most professional societies are beginning to recognize the many benefits of all types of digital tools, including mobile apps. Dr. Scher believes professional medical societies can rapidly accelerate the use of mobile health tools in a number of ways.
- They can develop their own apps. There are many benefits to using a mobile app developed by a professional medical society. Mobile apps have the potential to serve as a reference guide; a source of publication highlights; and provide breaking clinical, regulatory, or other medical news. However, the real excitement lies in the interactive patient engagement tools. As discussed in some of our earlier blogs, active communication and engagement is key in maintaining high patient retention. According to Dr. Scher, apps can be customized to communicate specialty quality measures. The simplified version of regulatory requirements in a digestible and user-friendly format in a mobile app is very attractive to providers.
- Support development of digital health technology KOLs. Dr. Scher explains that professional societies already have organizational leadership training initiatives, but should also foster the development of “digital KOLs”. According to Dr. Scher, “These are people already navigate digital media for professional purposes and understand the landscape of opportunities and barriers to digital health technologies and adoption.” This becomes especially important when recruiting patients for a clinical trial. Physicians also want to interact more than the traditional annual sessions or regional meetings provide. Through this technology, these interactions could occur in more personalized ways.
- Serve as quality evaluators of mobile apps. Dr. Scher points out the potential of conflicts of interest for a professional medical society acting as an endorser of third-party digital health tools. However, he also explains how this can be resolved. According to Dr. Scher, a society can examine apps with respect to data accuracy, whether or not they follow practice guidelines, and can also encourage clinical studies of mobile apps. Peer reviewed evaluation of studies will add credibility to the technology. Reliability, accuracy, privacy, and security are among the biggest concerns of medical app users.
- Create patient engagement tools. It would be ideal to have both a patient-facing app, one that the patient deals with directly, and a provider-facing app, one that the provider deals with directly. The user experience is totally different for each. The patient app would be designed with a sensitivity to health literacy, perhaps even with some sort of language translation feature. Simple education and instructional guides would allow patients to more easily navigate their medical journey as their provider would like. Through the use of the app, metrics can be collected and potentially applied to quality measure programs. In addition, this data would be more reliable since it is coming directly from the patient or caregiver. The provider app can simplify the guidelines with easy to convey actionable, educational, and treatment-based points.
- Work with regulators to incorporate mobile technologies into reimbursement, quality measure, and population health initiatives.
Dr. Scher points out that there is a massive delay between the development of technology and regulatory issues surrounding it. If this time frame were shortened, then technology could lessen the burden on providers, by integrating mobile data from the patient engagement apps discussed above into the HER and/or required data registries.