Mobile Application for Patient Communication
Summer of Research project by Hiten Karamchandani, AUT, supervised by Dr Muhammad Asif Naeem and Dr Farhaan Mirza.
It’s good news when a patient is discharged from hospital, but things can often go wrong in the final moments of their stay. The problem is two-fold: the patient is given too much information, and not enough time to understand it. They are told about their medication, how to take care of themselves at home, when their next appointment is… the to-do list goes on. Unfortunately, busy workloads and understaffing in the healthcare sector lead to poor communication between healthcare staff and their patients. This makes mistakes more likely, which can then lead to readmissions due to a lack of advice given to patients upon their initial hospital discharge.
This can often be the most critical time for a patient’s care, as their recovery depends on his or her understanding and sticking to the advice given by the hospital staff. It’s also important that documents such as the discharge summary are filled out correctly, as these will be used by other healthcare staff the patient might see during their recovery such as a physiotherapist. The accuracy of the information communicated to the patient at the time of discharge therefore, is paramount.
Hiten Karamchandani and his supervisors believe that this communication could be improved by a mobile app, through a concept called mHealth (use of mobile phones and similar technologies in medical care). Hiten’s project for the Precision Driven Health Summer of Research programme had four major goals:
- Provide ease of access
- Avoid readmission
- Improve recovery
- Facilitate patient/doctor engagement
He began by noting the general format of a hospital discharge summary. It contains all the patient details, names of physicians and information regarding diagnosis, medication and follow up appointments. Hiten then incorporated these fields into a smartphone app. Having all this information in one place on a mobile device could improve healthcare efficiency. It prevents misinformation, and gives the patient a constant source of information that could, in the future, be updated by healthcare staff in real time. If a mistake is made in the initial discharge information, healthcare staff could update it remotely. Similarly, if patients have a question about their discharge summary or wanted to query the advice given, they could do this through the app.
While the initial app that Hiten created focused on basic features, the potential to develop it further and integrate with other health apps is huge. Imagine a smartphone app notifying you about upcoming appointments, rescheduling them or reminding you to take your medication on time. You could even incorporate things like hospital maps and directions to wards. Your entire recovery period could potentially be tracked through to completion.
Another benefit of mHealth apps like the one Hiten developed is their potential to integrate with other healthcare systems. When healthcare practitioners are given the ability to access the entirety of a patient’s shared electronic health records, precision medicine will really start to take off. This access, combined with apps like Hiten’s which improve communications, will revolutionise healthcare.
Hiten Karamchandani is among a group of students who took part in the summer of research programme funded by Precision Driven Health. This month we are featuring a blog series examining these projects. While at an elementary stage and considered to be a ‘proof of concept’, these projects offer fresh insights into what the world of healthcare will look like when precision medicine is fully implemented.
PDH is New Zealand’s unique health data science research partnership.