Welcome to the next advancement in the delivery of health services –
monitoring patients and promoting healthy behavior through mobile phones and other portable devices
The Washington Post reported today about a service offered through Voxiva whereby expectant mothers receive free text messages concerning prenatal health advice. The pilot program has been in place since February and since then more than 100,000 expectant mothers are reported to have participated in the program. These technologies clearly are in line with initiatives in this country to move to electronic health records. However, whether these methods for delivering health care take hold remains to be seen. As the WP notes, while these technologies are attractive, there are challenges:
- As noted by WP reporter Steven Overly, communicating to a wide variety of patients through a "wide variety of mobile devices, operating systems and network speeds" raises significant challenges.
- Another issue, of course, is HIPAA and how these communications and devices will meet the privacy and security requirements under those regulations.
- Human error easily could cause the wrong messages to be sent to the wrong patients creating data breach, malpractice and other risks.
- One of our more recent posts highlights the concern about information maintained on cellphones and other mobile devices and what happens to that information when the phones are discarded.
- Employers who provide phones to their employees and have the right to review text messages, see recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Quon v. City of Ontario, can easily find themselves with access to all kinds of medical information of employees and possibly their dependents who give their doctors their cell phone number. This risks here could be significant.
As with the adoption of any new technology or new application of technology, companies and employers should be careful to think through all of the issues and take appropriate preventive steps toward minimizing risks.