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Tech Culture | Jan/Feb '14

The Unmet Need for Mobile Health in Ophthalmology

Innovative mobile health applications and platforms are steadily transforming the health care landscape by empowering patients to better manage their care. The trend of mobile health applications, largely shaped by the adoption of wearable sensors and technologies that allow doctors and patients to interact outside the office, indicates a trajectory toward better patient outcomes and, more importantly, toward more intimate doctor-patient relationships.

The mobile health approach to improving health care is focused on empowering patients to be more health conscious. Through this increased interaction between people and their health care, however, arises the need for more frequent and meaningful communication with their health care providers.

Larger-scale issues such as care coordination and practice management systems have been served by larger EMR companies such as Epic and Cerner, with the majority of the market share, competing with smaller companies specializing in niche areas of the health care system, such as patient education or secure messaging. This often complicates the ability and process that clinics face in integrating technology platforms, particularly because of interoperability concerns.

In ophthalmology, the trend of mobile health applications can be divided into two primary directions: (1) self-diagnostics and testing technologies, and (2) doctor-review platforms with location services. Although innovative and vital for patient empowerment, neither of these directly relates to clinical efficiency or overall system strengthening. The archetype to be achieved is a platform that empowers patients with knowledge, interactively engages them throughout their care, and increases the quality of care that they receive.

CheckedUp is a platform designed to do exactly this: It allows doctors to deliver quality care to each and every patient while using a streamlined back-end that eliminates inefficiency in the practice and the onus to input repetitive commands or instructions. The platform has two interfaces—the patient-facing portion, which educates patients with information customized for them and their specific condition by their doctor, and a doctor-facing interface that allow for more efficient visits, something that has become particularly important since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

The results from an ongoing multicenter clinical trial conducted in several pilot sites nationwide (n = 201) indicate that after the implementation of CheckedUp in high-volume clinics, patients using the application were less anxious about their upcoming procedures and that information retention improved in those undergoing cataract surgery. Additionally, the data show that the mobile health platform helped patients understand their condition and treatment options and subsequently decreased their desire to spend additional time with their doctor.

These results suggest that the CheckedUp platform improves patient education and information retention throughout the preoperative cataract surgery process.

The doctor-patient relationship remains the most respected and coveted component of the health care delivery chain. The adoption of mobile health technology solutions augments the patient experience and has created new ways for health care providers and patients to engage in education, compliance, and outcome improvement.

Richard Awdeh, MD

Richard Awdeh, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami and the Founder of CheckedUp. Dr. Awdeh may be reached at (305) 326-6000; rawdeh@med.miami.edu.