How best to provide mobile access to health documents

July 5, 2012
Bethany Chambers

An international group wants your opinion of its guide for providing private health information to patients via smartphones and tablets. There's just one catch.

If you have ideas for how to best share your electronic health records (EHRs) with patients, you’re in luck. An international organization backed by some of your professional groups just released a guide for giving patients access to records, and the health information technology (HIT) leaders behind it want your opinion. There’s just one catch-you’ll need to be fluent in tech-speak to read the 36-page draft.

The group, Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) posted the “Mobile access to health documents” implementation guide in June. No deadline has been set for public comment.

“Mobile health is a rapidly emerging market, with a strong demand for health data access,” says John Moehrke, standards and interoperability expert for GE Healthcare, who worked on the document. “We are really looking forward to industry feedback.”

IHE has 510 member organizations worldwide, including the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and the American College of Physicians. IHE’s mission is to improve interoperability between HIT systems.

The guide takes earlier specifications for computer- or server-based data exchange and offers a simplified, Web-based interface that could work on providers’ and patients’ smartphones and tablets.

This technical framework comes as Congress prepares to set a deadline for the regulatory framework for mobile health access.

Instead of limiting access just to health information exchanges (HIEs), documents also could be delivered via patient portals, EHR systems, and personal health records (PHRs). Specifically, the framework could be used for:

  • home health monitoring devices;

  • patient kiosks in hospitals or offices;

  • PHR mobile apps that link to EHRs or HIEs;

  • provider-specific apps; and

  • electronic measurement devices.

The guide lays out processes for submitting information from a mobile device to a system, pulling the metadata for the correct record from the system, using the metadata to find and link documents based on the query, and retrieving a copy of the information.

Last week the Senate approved the final version of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, which includes a provision for mobile health apps. If signed by President Obama, the Department of Health and Human Services and several other groups would have 18 months to make recommendations for how to regulate HIT and assess risks.

IHE is asking for comments on security risks, programming protocols, and access limitations, among other topics integral to mobile health records. To comment, visit www.ihe.net/Technical_Framework/public_comment.cfm.

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