Consumer to Clinical: Design for Interoperability Considerations to Take Consumer Apps to the Hospital System

Posted by Mike, on March 9, 2017

It’s the age of wearables, biosensors and remote health monitoring. Consumers everywhere are downloading apps to keep tabs on their health and wellness, creating a revolution that could lead to big impact and outcomes for patients looking to truly become CEO of their own health.

This is a trend hospital teams are more than taking note of, collaborating with design leaders to discuss what new application-based solutions could mean for clinicians in a key topical discussion at IDSA’s recent medical conference.

At the conference, Aenor Sawyer, MD, MS, Surjit Ahluwalia, Hanmin Lee, MD, and David Shaywitz, MD, PhD highlighted evolving trends with a word of caution: hospitals looking to integrate these trends into internal systems in the near future, will need to be abreast of the learning curve and challenges internal teams must overcome for smooth interoperability with existing systems.

Below, we share top considerations for those exploring the benefits of integrating consumer health and wellness applications into the patient journey and clinical settings.

Make Note of Variances in Rules and Regulations

It is important to distinguish the distinct differences between what makes an app ready for adoption with a purely consumer market versus a clinical one.

In a medical setting, clinicians may require more out of the app to justify its use and integration into the workplace. This could subsequently shift the intended output of the app, and shift core app functionality in ways that need addressed as something completely new.

For consumer users, the app can purely be defined as a data collector, explicitly known as nothing more and nothing less, where data collected cannot necessarily be correlated to any particular insight. In a clinical setting, however, that likely won’t be good enough. The data may need to explicitly mean something, which could call for the app to move from being purely a method of health data collection to more of a comprehensive medical device, able to integrate into a system that leverages insights toward diagnosis or treatment.

In this case, according to insights gathered from the FDA’s report on mobile medical applications, additional government acts will need to be followed for the app to be in compliance.

To remove some of the guesswork, the Federal Trade Commission has developed an interactive tool to help mobile health app developers know exactly which federal laws apps will need to follow based on various sets of criteria. Access here and discover which laws apply to your mobile health app now.

Ensure Patient Profiles and Records Will Match Up

Data from newly developed solutions will likely need to flow into existing operational systems.

If this consideration was not thought of from the start, or the solution was developed in a third party realm, finding a way to get all elements on the same page could be a challenge that you need to address.

The ideal fit will be apps or integrations that simultaneously update patient data for records that are always up to date.

If hiccups or missed connections during the system integration occurs, discuss first with the solution provider, and then with a developer if issues persist.

Keep an Eye on Evolving System Trends and Upgrades

Technology advances fast. Never before has this statement been more true. Just a decade ago, smartphones as we know them today didn’t exist, and now two-thirds of Americans own a handheld computer.

To deliver the best patient experience, you want to adopt, upgrade and evolve systems at the same rate as app users.

Keep an eye on evolving patient behaviors, and trust in the expertise of your development partners to help guide you in necessary adoption 101.

Keep up with recommended software updates, and read up regularly on the latest tech to see new trends on the horizon. The hottest topics right now? Here’s two we know you’ll be hearing more and more about in the coming months:

  1. Health Level-7 (HL7) vs Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR): Which side are you on? Fans of vast and flexible customization might still remain partial to HL7, but there is a sharp new data-share contender on the horizon. For those looking for a clinical system that aggregates, normalizes, and harmonizes data from a variety of sources, in more of a defined structure, with increased security, and what could be argued, easier customization, FHIR could be the easy-to-implement interoperable solution your healthcare business never knew it needed. The aim of the game with both? To help your team consume collected data in more meaningful ways.
  2. Application Program Interfaces (APIs): APIs are nothing new, but these systems of tools and resources that provide developers with clearly defined methods of communication between various software components are a continual work in progress. APIs are starting to get more attention as more companies look to streamline individual technologies into comprehensive solutions that save time and money, which means leveraging APIs in more dynamic and agile ways.

Clinical Apps Are Coming…It’s Just a Matter of When

It’s reported that by the year 2020, more than 78.5 million people worldwide will be using home health technology to keep track of their wellness. This is a massive jump from the approximate 14.3 million using home health tech worldwide in 2014.

As the trends toward interactive and digital data collectors increase and evolve, and consumer behavior becomes more mobile by the day, it’s not very far off to predict that it is only a matter of time before integrations and applications built for the clinical setting become more widespread too.

With this in mind, hospital systems should begin preparing infrastructure for a new technological future, built with regulatory compliance, interoperability, and the patient experience kept top of mind.

Are you currently translating a consumer app to a more sensitive clinical setting? What are your top concerns? Let’s talk through the hurdles and potential of these interoperable solutions in the comment section below.