Mobile enablement for providers: Improving inpatient and outpatient care

By David Keane
08:03 AM

Mobile devices are revolutionizing healthcare in hospitals and remote-care delivery organizations. Clinicians and patients are using mobile devices to access medical information (in real-time), consult with colleagues and maintain patient-clinician communication.  Mobile devices allow information to be securely available to caregivers to make better and more timely decisions that are in-line with a healthcare provider’s workflow.  Mobile devices are enabling caregivers to deliver higher levels of care with greater efficiency than ever before, while improving patient outcomes.

Healthcare institutions find themselves in an unusual position, considering the adoption of a transformative technology, such as mobile, in an industry that has typically been resistant to change -- rooted in a legacy computing environment (hardware and software), manual paperwork and forms (costly and error prone) and outdated administrative procedures.  As mobile technology has become increasingly integrated into all aspects of everyday life, it’s time for its use in the delivery of information to improve healthcare services and patient outcomes. The number of people who wish to access and work with their healthcare providers through mobile technologies will rise substantially over the next couple of years, and the industry needs to be prepared for this shift.

The healthcare industry today is extremely complex.  The administration of medicine is complicated, and caregivers are working in an environment that is certainly fast-paced and layered to say the least.  Healthcare workers need tools that deal with complexity and rapid decision making to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.  The capabilities found in mobile devices today mean that caregivers are able to work with systems, data and content that was previously only accessible via a desktop or laptop computer.  The automation of manual tasks and collaboration between healthcare teams that can happen on mobile device means that healthcare workers must have access to the content that resides in care-giving applications in an easy-to-use and relevant way.  But providing mobile device access to these systems can’t be at the expense of regulatory compliance objectives, such as the HIPAA/HITECH electronic health records data privacy mandate.

Mobile devices used in a healthcare setting are becoming increasingly important and integral part of healthcare delivery.  To be effective we must recognize that mobile devices can overcome the challenges around getting clinician’s access to the right information at the right time and location to ensure that we are not compromising patient care.  Slow response times can have an adverse effect on patient safety and outcomes, as well as drive up healthcare costs.

Clinicians that are forced to rely on written notes/forms, that then must transcribe the data into a caregiving application on PC, can lead to medical inefficiencies, time costs and, most dangerously, serious errors.  Mobile devices can overcome this challenge by enabling timely and secure access to medical journals, viewable x-rays or photos of a wound, quick-access to lab results; test ordering; prescription changes, and collaboration with other clinicians right from a patient’s bedside.  Mobile devices such as tablets are also being used to increase patient engagement, as they can be used to help healthcare professionals illustrate and explain information to patients in an accessible, graphical way.

The State Of Mobility In Healthcare:
Research and Markets predicts that mobile health applications will become an integrated part of doctors’ treatment plans by 2017.  A recent Ovum survey confirms the use of mobile devices in clinical settings, with 53% of caregiving institutions having implemented EHR access on mobile devices compared to 18% in the previous year.

Since mobile technologies have become so embedded in everyday living, healthcare providers are finding that their patients are increasingly comfortable with the use of mobile devices to relay medical information by creating historical charts on an iPad that illustrate test results or blood pressure and cholesterol readings over time.

The mobile device has become the primary screen of choice for clinicians when seeking out and exchanging information across healthcare teams.  Research shows that mobile devices are outpacing personal computers with clinicians when it comes to search functions, accessing professional reference resources, seeking out clinical information (physician’s desk reference), as well as communicating and collaboration among healthcare providers/colleagues, according to Epocrates Mobile Trends Survey 2013.