Online Program

Leveraging Mobile Technology for Proactive Public Health: 3 Functioning Examples

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 9:10 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

Gerald Miller, BS (AAE), Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services (HCPHES), Houston, TX
Brian Arenare, MD, MBA, MPH, Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services, Houston, TX
Michael Schaffer, MBA, CPO, Environmental Public Health Division, Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services, Pasadena, TX
Michael White, DVM, MS, Division of Veterinary Public Health, Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services, Houston, TX
Les Becker, MBA, Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services, Houston, TX
Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services, Houston, TX
Local Health Departments (LHDs) are tremendous sources and resources to their communities.  They are sources of information and data that are exceptionally useful to the public.  They are also invaluable resources to members of that same public who are in need.  Unfortunately, public health data repositories and service operations are often “out of sight, out of mind” for many members of the community because the data and services may be challenging to navigate and complex to utilize.  Instead of citizens having to parse through publicly posted information or adhere to set service hours, mobile technology enables LHDs to bring content actively and services directly into the hands of their community.  This presentation demonstrates three examples operating today in a large urban health department in Harris County, Texas.

Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services (HCPHES) is committed to innovation and technology, as exemplified by three mobile technologies it has launched that range the spectrum of information, data and services of a large local health department, yet are unified by the common goal of being an active participant in the health lives of our community.  These mobile technologies are: Pet Reunification with their owners through facial recognition of animals; Restaurant Reports actively pushing restaurant inspection reports based on geolocation and/or food type; and Remote Tuberculosis observed therapy with the ability to remotely treat Tuberculosis patients on a timetable that meets their schedule.

HCPHES is the first public animal shelter to integrate its data with a mobile app that uses a proprietary algorithm specifically developed for facial recognition of animals.  Combining photographic and other metadata already gathered as part of shelter operations, with smartphone GPS locations and photos taken by the mobile app users, HCPHES can more quickly reunite lost pets in its shelter with caring owners.  Additionally, because the mobile app also functions peer-to-peer, citizens who find an animal and post it using the app may be able to reunite it with the owner and prevent the animal from ever entering the shelter.

Food safety is a public health concern shared by all members of the community.  HCPHES inspects the restaurants spanning a geographic area of 1,700 square miles, serving over 2.2 million citizens.  To actively provide those citizens food safety information, HCPHES has implemented a mobile app to automatically present users with restaurant inspection results.  These results can be based on location derived from smartphone GPS, type of restaurant, or a list of favorite food establishments.  Further, HCPHES uses the mobile technology to engage the community in food safety.  Citizens can report and photo-document food issues directly to HCPHES using the app.  This effort is Phase 1 of an integrated app that HCPHES is architecting to proactively use mobile technology across its range of services.

Control of infectious disease is a cornerstone of public health.  Yet, Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) methods for treating diseases such as Tuberculosis have remained essentially unchanged for half a century.  Using encrypted data transfers from mobile devices and HIPAA-compliant cloud based storage systems, HCPHES has stepped beyond pilot studies to implement the first operational video Directly Observed Therapy (vDOT) program in a large patient population for treating Tuberculosis.  The mobile vDOT app allows patients to remain compliant with their medication regime without a DOT worker having to physically travel to observe them.  Patients record and upload encrypted videos of themselves taking their medication at whatever time and location is convenient for their schedule.  Public healthcare workers then review and approve/disapprove the recordings from a centralized facility using a HIPAA-compliant Client Management System (CMS).

Mobile Health technologies allow public health organizations to readily engage their communities as never before.  HCPHES is demonstrating its dedication to innovate through three mobile technologies that facilitate an active role for the LHD in the health lives of its community.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Other professions or practice related to public health
Provision of health care to the public

Learning Objectives:
Define proactive public health. Explain how mobile technology enables public health to have a more active role in community life. Discuss various mobile health apps in use at a large county Local Health Department. Demonstrate their utility and Explain differences in their development.

Keyword(s): Technology, Telehealth

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the Deputy Director / Director of Operations responsible for the development and execution of the Technology innovations being presented.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.