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Does Mobility Improve Health Data Collection?

August 11, 2014
by Joe Marion
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Mobile devices by themselves do not create mobility - it's also about connectivity!

Last week I had several interesting conversations, one with a long-time colleague about the use of mobile health in home health applications.  The assumption is that mobile devices will improve data collection and patient management in home health settings.  The reality is that many of these applications depend on connectivity to acquire the data, and the inability to achieve adequate connectivity can greatly affect user acceptance!

Consider the case where the home health worker is supposed to use a laptop application to acquire patient information.  The application is dependent on some form of connectivity, such as a wireless provider to pass the information from the laptop to the remote server.  What happens if there is not adequate connectivity?  The user becomes frustrated and ends up recording the information manually, and later entering it – an unproductive use of time and the potential for errors.

What if instead of depending on connectivity, the mobile application had the ability to acquire the information, and then later synchronize it to the remote server?  Now, the user can use the device to acquire information and later update the application when convenient and connectivity is assured.

My colleague, Joe Buckle, founder of Trigram Technologies ( is one concern that has an approach to addressing more efficient data collection.  Trigram has introduced a product called Trigram Mobile that capitalizes initially on Apple’s iPad technology to acquire patient information.  Once connected, the application synchronizes to a server application which can then in turn update specific clinical applications.  The PHI (protected health information) is managed by HIPAA compatible security, and can be customized to acquire information consistent with many data forms.  Forms can be designed from Microsoft Word templates, as well as scanned documents.  Drop downs and other data entry tools make data entry easy.  The application can even rapidly search and provide quick summations of correct ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes.

What I find intriguing about such an application is the use of data synchronization to provide connectivity-independent data acquisition.  This simplifies the acquisition process, making it easier for the user to use the application, and greatly improving the efficiency and efficacy of the data acquired.  There are a number of interesting prospects for expanding the use of such technology. 

One that comes to mind is an application that has been attempted by a number of companies – that of patient data entry and signoff.  The approach of using an interactive kiosk in the waiting room of clinical services is expensive, and dependent on the device being interactive with the application – not always conducive for patient interaction.  What if the device could be independent of the application in terms of connectivity while the patient completes the entry?  Once completed, the information could be verified by office staff and they synchronized with the required application. 

Conversely, how often do systems require data verification?  What if the information could be downloaded by the application and provided to the patient for verification?  Name or address changes could be made, and then synchronized with the appropriate application.  The process of staff verification and synchronization could potentially reduce the amount of errors associated with data entry or changes. 

This is only one alternative to the use of such technology.  I am sure there are many more applications that could benefit from the simplicity of data entry and the time-independent capture and synchronization.  Move over clipboard and paper form – the future has arrived!