mHealth apps and medical devices create a comprehensive approach to care
Smartphones can help healthcare providers deliver part of a health intervention to a patient. In addition, an app can connect patients with doctors via secure video calls. This engagement can be taken one step further by connecting the app to medical devices that collect biometric data.
In 2015, a team of Johns Hopkins physicians, nurses, pharmacists, engineers and public health experts, together with patients and families, developed the Corrie appthat connects to both a smartwatch to track a patient’s heart rate and daily activity, and a wireless cuff to track blood pressure.
“One of the things we’ve recognized in digital health is that part of the solution, from a technology standpoint, is a comprehensive approach. In cardiology in particular, it is critical to determine what each piece of the technology platform adds to the health data to better manage and care for our patients,” said Dr. Francoise Marvel, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Department of Medicineco-director of the Johns Hopkins Digital Health Lab and CEO of Corrie Health.
The app not only keeps track of biometrics but also acts as a management tool. Corrie may warn users to schedule follow-up appointments or take medications, which is especially important for patients who have recently had a heart attack or have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and who are now taking new medications. It also includes patient education materials related to heart healthy lifestyles and instructions on the proper use of the devices.
“Often we forget who we should see when we leave the hospital. Connecting patients to follow-up appointments or cardiac rehabilitation is critical, a program that helps patients get back on track as they recover from a cardiovascular event,” Marvel said. “The app’s connect feature creates a 360-degree connection with our patients, from hospital to home. If I’m taking care of a patient, they can add me as a contact person to the app so they can find me and contact me if they need to.”
Johns Hopkins University’s MiCORE Study combined the Corrie Health digital platform with a Apple Watch and iHealth Bluetooth blood pressure monitor focused on cardiac medication self-management, vital sign self-registration, cardiovascular disease education through articles and animated videos, and care coordination including cardiac rehabilitation and outpatient follow-up appointments.
Measuring success with mHealth apps and medical devices
Before creating an mHealth app and connected medical device program, it is important to identify a particular problem among a healthcare organization’s patient population. According to Dr. Rebecca Cunningham, senior medical director of primary care at… Mass General Brighamassistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a practicing family physician at Brigham and the Women’s Hospitalit is best to choose an area that is an important predictor of morbidity and where there are disparities in health outcomes.
Mass General Brigham has focused much of his work on the use of primary care medical devices for the treatment of hypertension. The goal is to enable patients to monitor their blood pressure at home and then submit the readings online to inform clinical decision-making. The organization strives to do this in an integrated, safe and equitable manner.
“When the practices were closed due to the pandemic, there was a subset of people who could purchase blood pressure cuffs online or at a pharmacy and submit their readings. However, there was a subset of people who couldn’t,” says Cunningham.
This prompted the organization to focus its hypertension monitoring efforts on practices with patients who are less likely to get their blood pressure under control. This patient population may have lower health literacy, speak English as a second language, or face racism or poverty.