Healthcare Reform

Medicaid Goes Mobile?

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A mobile app might help providers in New Jersey attest for Meaningful Use, but questions outnumber answers so far.

Apps are all the rage, and HealthBiz Decoded has covered their promise, pitfalls and back-end security issues before.

“Mobility has taken over the masses,” said Sita Kapoor, CIO of IGI Health, on the third day of the Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference. How can Medicaid go mobile, which it must do to keep up with trends, given healthcare’s overhead costs? Her tech company partnered with NJ-HITEC in New Jersey to try to find out.

“People age 35 and younger are the primary users of mobile tech. At this point, if you do not give it to them, they will not engage with what you’re doing. It’s starting to catch up with us,” Kapoor said.

Find a Doctor is very popular, Pharmacy Locator is very popular, but those apps apply to the softer aspects of healthcare and are not as high-level as we would like.”

The NJ-HITEC Meaningful Use Mobile App, available in the iTunes app store and on GooglePlay, was set to be a more advanced but still usable, mobile option to help primary care and specialist physicians learn how to use their electronic health records most efficiently.

“We are somewhere between a crawl and a walk right now,” said Bill O’Byrne, executive director of NJ-HITEC, a regional extension of the Office of the National Coordinator, addressing a skeptical crowd.

The project began in 2010 with funding from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. For patients, their personal health record app (developed in 2009) works well: The patient enters his or her vitals, schedules checkups, and gets notifications for care-coordination and follow-up. They can also find medication information from industry-only sources like Medline Plus.

Personal health records are the future, Kapoor said, but we’ve yet to work out a payment model that makes sense. Patients pay for a health plan and don’t want to pay extra for an app, which they say should be included; health plans similarly pass payment off to the patients.

Meaningful Use? There’s an App for That

While that little snag gets worked out on an industry level, New Jersey has been working on the other half of the project, the Medicaid Meaningful Use app. Approved physicians are assigned a username and password they use to log in to the “member portal” once they open the app. Providers can see how close they are to qualifying for Meaningful Use standards based on a large “progress bar” along the top, which looks like the “lives left” bar on the bottom of a video game screen. As the bar fills up, the provider gets closer and closer to attesting.

The app gauges the progress with data taken from electronic health records that are entered into the app: number of patient visits, medication lists, and Medicaid eligible patients, which will generate a Medicaid patient volume.

It reportedly helps with Physician Quality Reporting System data, and can store EHR screenshots in the cloud.  Providers need this data to send to the government when attesting for meaningful use, which should help doctors get as many incentive payments as possible.

What About Security?

It seemed like an interesting idea, and the visual demo had people talking, but many were concerned about security. What if someone else gets the provider’s password, couldn’t they log in and change or take the patient data?

O’Byrne and the regional NJ-HITEC director Ron Mankey said that was unlikely, and their app is just as secure as common mobile banking apps many people already use on their phones.

Others asked if the app actually helps providers attest, or if it’s just one more step in their ever-increasing load of data entry, only to find that very few providers in New Jersey are actually using the app now. Though 3,500 of the 5,000 providers in their network have been MU-certified using the NJ-HITEC learning tools, only about 100 have used the app so far.

Everyone agreed that mobile is taking over the healthcare space, but only time will tell if this mobile solution in New Jersey will find success and spread across the country.

One Response to “Medicaid Goes Mobile?”


Interesting article, especially about the security – we already trust technology with sensitive data!