Southcoast Health System Launches iPhone App to Help Manage Medications

Southcoast Health System has launched an exciting new free application for the iPhone, called Southcoast MyHealth, that helps patients and their families keep track of their medications, find a physician and stay connected with news and events at Southcoast. The new app is one of the most comprehensive mobile applications that has been developed with an eye on patient safety offered by any hospital in New England or the United States.

Q: What was the thinking behind the Southcoast MyHealth iPhone app you developed this year?
A: I’ve been a technology junkie for many years. I had the first iPhone on the first day it came out back in 2007. We were looking for innovative ways to weave technology into our quality initiatives.

Q: What exactly does the app do?
A: The Southcoast MyHealth app helps users keep track of their medications, as well as the medications for their family members, but it has other useful features, too. It enables the user to find more than 900 physicians in the region, including specialists. It links to the latest news from Southcoast about upcoming events, and it has a handy phone directory that stores our most frequently called telephone numbers. Above all, it connects users to a reliable health care source.

Q: So, is it like a digital notebook where a patient can keep track of all the medications they’re taking?
A: You can think of the MyHealth app from Southcoast as your own personal health assistant. We are living in a world where on-the-go connectivity, especially through mobile devices like smartphones, is becoming expected and, in many cases, the preferred way to keep up with news and information.

Q: Is this the first app of its kind that you know of?
A: To the best of our knowledge, we are one of the only hospitals in New England and the country to develop such a comprehensive app. Other hospitals have apps to help people find a doctor or a nearby ER, but our app also lets people keep track of their prescriptions.

A lot of apps out there are free, but they are not connected to your local hospital. In addition to having the ability to store this information on your iPhone, you have the ability to interact with Southcoast.

Q: Why the focus on medications? Is that a significant problem you’ve identified in the patient population?
A: We looked at what types of problems we could solve using an app on a mobile device that is always in someone’s pocket or purse. We decided on an app that stores medication information because medication reconciliation is an important patient safety issue and something that would definitely help our patients and their families.

It is standard practice for physicians and health care providers to ask patients for an updated medication list every time they have an appointment. This includes hospital visits, diagnostic tests and lab work. However, prescriptions are constantly changing — the names of drugs, doses and frequency. One of the greatest challenges patients and family caregivers face is the ability to remember precisely which medications they’re on, which doses and what frequency of use.

Q: Do older people find it useful? It seems that the app itself would be most useful to the very people who are most likely to be intimidated by the technology of smartphones.
A: Often, it is as useful to the family members as it is to the patient. I recognized the need for the MyHealth app when I began to take care of my elderly parents, especially my father, who passed away this year. I still take care of my mother, as well as my own children. This was the perfect opportunity for me to bring together Southcoast’s focus on patient safety and quality and what was going on in my own life at the time.

People in our area tend to have large families. All you need is one person in your family to keep track of these things. The younger generation wants to do everything on their smartphones; they want to be connected. More and more of us are using these little computers in our pockets for things we never would have imagined years ago.

Q: Do you believe this is the wave of the future? Do you see other hospitals and large practices developing apps of their own?
A: It’s our responsibility as health care providers to find innovative ways to educate patients and keep them safe.

Q: What plans do you have for future versions of this app?
A: With an app like this, we are never really done. We have some great ideas for new features, and we want to get feedback from our users to see what they like and what suggestions they may have for how we can improve it in version 2.0.
Development is already underway for an Android version of the app. Southcoast will continue to build on the application with the goal of someday putting the patient electronic medical record in the palm of their hand.

The free Southcoast MyHealth app, which is available immediately for download from the iTunes App Store, can be installed on any generation iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

MD News Future of Health Care 2011, Greater Boston



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