HM Embraces Smartphones

The Schumacher Group, which bills itself as the third-largest emergency and HM management firm in the U.S., is incorporating the use of smartphone applications, or apps, through its EDs nationwide. A similar technology could soon be in the offing for its HM operation.

The Lafayette, La.-based firm announced late last month that it was partnering with iTriage, a company that produces a free healthcare app for consumers, at its ED operation at North Okaloosa Medical Center in Crestview, Fla. The app will let patients and others learn details about the hospital and its services. And while David Grace, MD, FHM, the firm’s senior medical officer for hospital medicine, says there are no immediate plans to expand the usage to HM, the topic is being discussed.

"We’re investigating it," he says, adding he sees a multitude of potential uses for healthcare apps, especially if they empower HM patients to become more involved in their care.

"I think any information that we can supply patients, whether we supply it or it’s supplied through some other media, I think is a good thing," he says. "It increases their engagement. And any time the patient is more engaged in their healthcare, I think you develop better plans, better outcomes."

He cautions that there are potential pitfalls for physicians and patients. Patients need to be realistic about their breadth of knowledge, and doctors need to understand that a patient is not second-guessing them, just being interactive in the process.

It can "almost be one more line of safety checks in the whole healthcare continuum," Dr. Grace says. "The last time I looked, I’ve not seen too many practices of individuals out there hit 100% of everything 100% of the time. And while the errors numbers may be small, if you’re the one discharged after a stroke not on an anti-platelet agent and have a massive stroke, that 1% was a pretty substantial number in your case."

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