By Janice Petrella Lynch, MSN, RN
Mobile health technology, also known as mHealth, has broadened nurses’ horizons beyond what we ever could have imagined, giving us the ability as providers to improve care and communication and educate and empower patients in managing their own care.
No longer do we need to make clinical decisions based only on office visits, episodic emergency care and hospitalizations. By using technologies from smartphones to wearable sensors and web-based or downloadable apps, we can monitor patients over specific or indefinite periods of time in the home setting. We make decisions based on real time and trended data and capture a true picture of the health of our patients. The possibilities are endless. In healthcare, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of this new world, and it’s amazing what nurses already have accomplished.
Nursing leaders who have created or are involved in the development of various mHealth technologies shared their experiences below. In all of their work, they have one thing in common — dedication and commitment to educating patients, families and communities and enabling them in managing their own health.
Here is what they shared on the why and what of nursing’s emerging role in mHealth:
• Nurses are both advocates and experts in patient care and the patient experience. In this powerful dual role, they can be leaders in technological innovation, and now is the time to get involved! ~ Nancy P. Hanrahan, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean and professor, school of nursing and associate dean, Bouve College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston
• In the near future, one of nursing’s roles will be to understand and interpret data from mHealth technology to provide better patient care, particularly in health prevention strategies. ~ Ryan J. Shaw, PhD, RN, assistant professor of nursing, Duke University School of Nursing, Durham, N.C.
• There is strength in collaboration; nothing gets accomplished in isolation. Interdisciplinary involvement is essential to the development of mHealth technology, and many facilities have technology centers where nurses can be supported in technology design, implementation and evaluation. ~ Sophia K. Smith, PhD, MSW, associate professor, Duke University School of Nursing, Durham, N.C.
• mHealth technology provides us with the opportunity to extend patient education beyond the walls of the healthcare setting. For example, mHealth tools that include an assessment component, followed by targeted education, can take place at home, before and after healthcare visits or while patients spend time in waiting rooms. ~ Anne Teitelman, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, Patricia Bleznak Silverstein and Howard A. Silverstein Endowed Term Chair in Global Women’s Health, associate professor of nursing, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia
• Putting something together into a mobile platform doesn’t automatically solve a healthcare issue. It’s important to use the right mHealth tool for a specific population and measure patient outcomes to make sure the tool is effective. ~ Rebecca Schnall, PhD, RN, assistant professor, Columbia University School of Nursing, New York City
Are you interested in using mHealth technology in your practice? Have you already begun to incorporate it? Share your thoughts and experiences with us.