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MultiCare app gives patients access on the go

MultiCare Health System patients now have a mobile app for accessing their medical records, reviewing test results and upcoming visit schedules, and sending messages to their physicians. The app, made available in January for Apple and Android smart phones and mobile devices, is integrated into MultiCare’s secure online patient portal, MyChart, which additionally allows patients to schedule appointments and request prescription refills.

The first version of the secure mobile app does not include the capability to schedule appointments or request refills, but expanded functionality is expected to be added in the future, according to Dr. Eric Herman, MultiCare primary care physician and medical director for Population Health Management.

He said the mobile application was launched because that’s what patients want. “Patients are enamored with smart phone and mobile technology and are identifying things in which technology can enhances their lives,” he said.

“This offers immediate access to some health care information, and it’s enjoyable technology so it enables them to have greater input into their health care,” he added. “The routine activities of lives are being integrated into people’s mobile devices, and now health care will be integrated. We want people connected to their health care like they are to other aspects of their lives, but at the same time we’re not discounting those who don’t want these tools.”

Because mobile apps are becoming an integral part of consumers’ lives, having medical information at their fingertips allows them to be more engaged participants in their medical decisions, Herman believes.

“From MultiCare’s point of view, the patients’ health and wellbeing take place predominantly outside of the clinics and the hospitals, and we see health care requests and needs similarly moving to other environments,” he said.

When users look up information with the MyChart app, no data is stored on the device. Once the patient logs out, a log-in is required again to access the account. In addition to adult patients, others such as parents and people with a durable power of attorney can request portal access.

MultiCare is also working with the app vendor to explore a mobile application for physicians. Herman said the physician-side mobile technology is nascent, with limited functionality, but would be a good tool for physicians who are on call and need access to critical information on the go. MultiCare will be piloting the provider-side app sometime in the future.

“This is definitely a trend — look at what’s going on with smart phone and applications in general,” Herman said. “Smart phones are very much a life-changing technology and patients are requiring this.”

The use of mobile technology in health care (dubbed mHealth) has been growing rapidly in the last few years. As many as 17 percent of smart-phone users are currently estimated to use health-related apps, and by 2015 that number is projected to be at 500 million, with mobile health growing to be a multibillion-dollar industry.

“It’s the way of the future,” said Gale Robinette, media relations manager for Franciscan Health System.

He said Franciscan is currently installing the Epic electronic health-records platform (used by many healthcare organization including MultiCare), which would allow for the development of an app in the future.

Harrison Medical Center is also exploring ways to add mobile technology enhancements.

“We are trending that way; we’re on that journey,” Robinette said. “It’s part of making care more convenient and consistent.”

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