Once you're finally feeling comfortable with your health tech knowledge, you may start to get antsy, asking yourself, "Now what?" It's hard to have all that information and nowhere to apply it! If you aren't actively using mHealth tools in your practice, now is the time to start.
But don't just download the first app you find and share it with your patients. Focus on finding a tool that will be effective and impactful for your patient base, and easy to integrate into your practice, whether it is a home monitoring device or an education resource. If you aren't sure of where to look for the perfect tool, follow these steps, and you'll be well on your way.
1) Talk to Your Patients
Step one in your search for the right mHealth tool: talk to your patients. During routine visits and follow-ups, ask your patients if there's a specific part of their health plan they've struggled with. Though your patients may not be as familiar with the health tech field as you, it's likely they'll be happy to articulate what would improve their treatment.
Perform a gap analysis of sorts to see where patient treatments fall short, and use that as your guide when choosing new mHealth tools. Don't be afraid to do a little information recon, too! Ask your patients if any of their friends or family with different PCPs use mobile health technology, and if so, what they think of the tools their providers use. You know an mHealth tool is worth using when it has good word-of-mouth reviews, so listen to your patients carefully.
2) Go to Trade Shows
Trade shows and conferences are one of the best ways to meet vendors (as well as other health professionals) and get all your mHealth questions answered. You can ask vendors about their tools and see demonstrations, and you'll be able to ask direct questions about competitors as well. Take plenty of notes so you can discuss them with your team back in the office. You'll want to discuss integration with your office staff as well as physicians, since training will be one of your biggest barriers.
Once you've seen some devices up close, take to the trade show floor or the lobby and start networking! Ask fellow physicians and practice managers about what tools they use in their practices. This is the best way to get honest, up-front reviews. You can also follow the event on social media. Use hashtags to call the attention of other attendees, and ask them about device vendors or software companies you've considered for your practice. This is a great strategy if you have limited time at an event or are following a conference cross-country. Keep an eye out for Q&A sessions on presenters' Facebook and Twitter accounts.
3) Comb Through Twitter
Speaking of Twitter: there's no better place to crowdsource your next tech move. There are several ways to find an mHealth tool using the platform, if you know where to look. Start by doing a weekly search for #mHealth, as well as any other hashtags that may be relevant to your practice's needs--#practicemgmt, #patiendeducation, or #diabetes, for example. This will often alert you to press coverage for mHealth companies, if you make sure to do it consistently.
When you have a tool in mind, follow the vendor on Twitter and see if they post demos, updates or any other information that may be crucial to your purchasing decision. And while you're at it, follow the company's competitors, too! Set up alerts for tweets with a certain hashtag, like the product's name, and keep an eye on the brand's account in case the company hosts a Twitter chat you can follow along with. Tweet your questions to the company, or tweet to other users in your social circle and ask them for advice based on your practice needs. Talk with other physicians and gain a working knowledge of different devices and software.
Your mHealth solution search should be about more than online product reviews. These tactics will help you get advice from others in your field, while being attentive to your patients' needs and engaging them in major health decisions. Your worst case scenario in picking an mHealth tool is choosing the wrong one and starting the process over again. But with steps as simple as these, making the right choice doesn't seem so intimidating.
How did you find your practice's mHealth tools? What advice would you give other physicians on the hunt? Tell us in the comments!