IBM's social program management goes mobile

Think “mobile health,” and you might think first of a “quantified self” aficionado who’s just run five miles on a treadmill, or perhaps of an elderly patient with congestive heart failure just waking up in the morning, each sending vital signs from a wearable device to an EHR somewhere off at a distance.

But then think of the other side of the healthcare system, of the countless case workers, care managers or care coordinators who spend most of each day on the road visiting patient after patient after patient. “Mobile health” has definitely come to these people, too.

According to Alan Collins, offering manager for mobile at IBM’s Watson Health, it has become clear in recent years that healthcare is increasingly being delivered “out in the real world.” That is, while patients obviously still need to go to the hospital or doctors’ offices, an increasing number of them are interacting with the healthcare system from their homes, either as they recover from particular illnesses or procedures, or as they manage a chronic condition such as diabetes. 

Either way, case workers or care coordinators tasked with caring for those patients want to have as much of the patient’s data at their disposal as possible without having to contact, or sometimes even go back to, their offices.

Enter IBM Curám Mobile, a fully integrated mobile front end for IBM Cúram Social Program Management.

As Collins describes the recently released solution, IBM has focused on two goals following extensive observation of, and conversations with, the myriad end users – such as social workers and care managers – of the Cúram Social Program management system.

First, “We were told users want to be able to prepare for a visit when they go out to meet a client in the field.” That can mean gathering basic information about the patient, he said, but it can also mean more in-depth information pertaining to each case.  “What members of the family are involved in their care? Who are the multi-disciplinary team members? What is the client’s overall care plan?”

Second, Collins said, “When caseworkers visit a client, they need to be able to easily capture new information that they need to know about the client.  Any special cautions, for example, or any photos they need to capture in order to attach them to the case record.”

These attributes and more, Collins said, are now available via IBM Curám Mobile, an app solution that has been developed for the iPad and is downloadable from iTunes.  With the new app, caseworkers are able to tap into their existing back-end Cúram system, search for the necessary client information, and, if necessary, cache data on the tablet in the case that they are leaving a wireless coverage area.

But there’s another element to the new Cúram offering.  According to Collins, IBM has also developed new Application Program Interfaces (API) for the back-end of Cúram’s existing infrastructure in order to enable current users to develop custom, Cúram-based systems of engagement.

For example, he noted, if an organization wants to develop a unique portal for its employees, or perhaps a dedicated “kiosk” that enables clients to enter information, the newly introduced architecture, which provides a selection of pre-built RESTful (Representational State Transfer) services, will enable developers to build them.

While Collins said IBM Curám Mobile has only been available since June, the early reviews have been positive.

“One child welfare worker,” he said, “has told me she can now do 90% of her job right on her tablet.”