Digital Health Making Inroads in the Smartphone World

Tue, Aug 25, 2015 --

Skill Sharpener

Mobile health, digital health, technology

Digital health, a technology buzzterm with broad meaning, ranges from wrist-worn fitness trackers to IBM Watson-style big data and analytics. Mobile health apps, also called mhealth, are a subset of digital health becoming increasingly popular with both providers and patients, with more than 100,000 mHealth apps available for iOS and Android smartphones.

These apps can boost patients’ engagement with improving their overall health, but the large amount of personal data they carry can pose a risk for HIPAA violations. Many providers embrace mobile health apps for their own use as documentation and reference tools. But the more mobile that information gets, the more at risk it becomes for breach of data if it includes protected health information (PHI).

Text Messaging – Simple Communication Method or Digital Health Danger to Privacy?

Most Americans use text messaging daily for easy, nonintrusive communication, but traditional SMS text messaging is not secure, so protected health information should be kept off SMS. However, nonurgent information like schedule changes and practice updates maybe good uses of SMS that do not pose a privacy risk. Another problem with using texting, even secure texting, for patient-practice communication, is the lack of a paper trail to document that communication took place. Make sure that whatever texting technology chosen by the practice includes the ability to be traced for documentation.

Mobile Health Applications Have Multiple Uses

The umbrella term mobile health includes application types used by both clinicians and patients, broadly categorized into the following:

  • Clinical assistance and patient portals, which include apps that let providers review EHR data or lab results during an appointment or let patients access their own data; these often come with the EHR package, such as those of NextGen and Epic.
  • Monitoring apps that could provide telehealth consultations or follow such clinical issues as arrhythmia
  • Reminder apps that prompt a patient to take a medication or to come to the office for an appointment
  • Reference and database apps to help providers look up dosages and symptoms, such as Epocrates (available free for both Apple and Android devices). And SuperCoder has a slick app for ICD-10 search, as well as ICD-10 PCS Lookup and the ICD-10 Coding Alert newsletter, for both iOS and Android.
  • Consumer apps promoting healthy lifestyles and fitness, targeted more for patient use than for doctors, such as the Fitbit activity tracker and the Health app built-in on iOS devices
  • Communications apps facilitating secure information exchange among clinicians, including pages from nursing staff and consultation requests from other clinicians, all with the ease of texting; examples include Doximity and Onpage.
  • Third-party apps using the technology of Google Fit and Apple Healthkit, which can collect users’ personal information such as heart rate, blood pressure, etc.

What’s Your Favorite Digital Health/Mobile Health App?

With so many to choose from, it’s hard to pick which are the best. Do you have a mobile health app that you love? Have you tried the SuperCoder ICD-10 search app? Let us know in the comment box below. We love to hear from you!

Stay Current on HIPAA Requirements the Easy Way

What’s the fastest way to get the latest information to keep your practice HIPAA compliant? It’s not going to the HHS website and sifting through obscurely worded governmental bulletins! SuperCoder’s Health Information Compliance Alert newsletter brings you the health information compliance news you need without the impenetrable legalese. Each month, you’ll get answers to the toughest privacy and electronic claims compliance questions along with the other updates and information you need.

And don’t miss The Coding Institute/SuperCoder HIPAA Handbook! Packed with practical advice for safeguarding against HIPAA penalties, this handbook can help you will help you create your risk analysis and keep your practice compliant.


Susan taught health information and healthcare documentation at the community college level for more than 20 years. She has a special love for medical language and terminology. She is passionate about ensuring accurate patient healthcare documentation through education. She has a master's degree in healthcare administration, is a certified healthcare documentation specialist, and serves as immediate past president for the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI).

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