One of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is the increased spotlight on mobile health technologies. The convenience and rapid time to results are the main advantages of these technologies, which include a range of devices from heart monitors found on smartwatches to continuous glucose monitors (CGM). The session “Transforming Laboratory Medicine Through Mobile Health Technologies” will present how mobile devices have impacted medicine and explore how they might influence its future.

Drs. James Nichols and Frank Desiere will introduce attendees to the emerging fields of e-Health and m-Health. E-Health is an intersection of medical informatics, public health, and business, in reference to health services and information that is processed through the internet and other related technologies. M-health refers to how mobile communication devices (phones, tablets, smartwatches, etc.) can support the practice of medicine and public health.

Nichols will explore how these wearable devices collect individualized health data that are uploaded to a corporate cloud. The speakers will also discuss how these large amounts of data can help create better algorithms to detect disease.

Wearable device data are not currently integrated into a patient’s health record and thus are not taken into account by physicians when evaluating the patient. Therefore, Desiere will discuss how prepared health systems are for the next step in patient data management and mobile health integration.

The session will also include information on patient portals, which allow patients to access their own health information, including laboratory results. There are many positive aspects of patient portals, including greater transparency to the patient’s own health information. Patients like to see data and be able to connect with others in similar situations.

Laboratorians can leverage this technology to speak truths about science and convey what impact laboratory tests have on health management. However, patient portals can also bring challenges to the laboratory, including having to relay information in lay terminology, or having limited patient information or documentation on why tests are ordered. Another potential concern is the fact that health information could be hacked or used to create and spread misinformation.

The session will also present the state of CGMs. During the pandemic, the FDA supported the use of CGMs as a way to reduce personal protective equipment waste and reduce the risk of exposure to healthcare workers. Patients also prefer CGMs over traditional POC fingersticks.

There are some barriers, however. In using CGMs, professionals have to learn to deal with data that they are unfamiliar with. Additionally, traditional method correlations to assess the acceptability of a new method may need to be modified when looking at the performance of these new devices. For example, CGM devices measure interstitial fluid glucose, whereas traditional laboratory glucose methods measure intravascular fluid glucose. Also, these devices can yield novel data like rates and directionality of change.

The interconnectivity of these mobile data with traditional laboratory data may be one of the major challenges laboratorians have to face. We have to consider how we can integrate new data.

It is expected that more wearable devices will enter the market soon -- will they bring a new frontier on how to interpret laboratory data? This is the next step in the evolution of POC and it could be a new opportunity for the laboratory to connect with patients.