Health IT Strategy: Managing Mobility

03:00 AM
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By Tom Foley, Director, Global Health Solution Strategy, Lenovo Health

Putting mobile devices into healthcare providers’ and patients’ hands can be a springboard for mobility in healthcare. However, in order to be successful, organizations need more than a handoff of innovative technology. When managing mobility, it is necessary to ensure that the right information is reaching the right person at the right time, and this dynamic shift to on-demand communication can be overwhelming. Mobility is ultimately about managing efficient communications and data exchange between stakeholders, and technology is only part of that equation. In addition to the tools, organizations need sound strategies and objectives.

Tom FoleyDo your mobility solutions include communication and data exchange strategies? While seemingly a basic question, it’s actually critical to determining efficacy. So much of the industry’s mHealth efforts have been focused on devices and the promise of population management, as opposed to how healthcare organizations can build better and more fluid communication methods. Taking a step back to assess use cases and craft a strategy could be a key part of building a successful technical architecture. Business Wire reports on the industry’s shortcomings in this arena:

“Simply having a mobile app is not enough,” said Brian Kalis, managing director in Accenture’s Health practice. ”Hospital apps are failing to engage patients by not aligning their functionality and user experience with what consumers expect and need. Consumers want ubiquitous access to products and services as part of their customer experience, and those who become disillusioned with a provider’s mobile services—or a lack thereof—could look elsewhere for services.”

“According to Accenture, this is already happening, as approximately 7 percent of patients have switched healthcare providers due to a poor experience with online customer service channels, such as mobile apps and web chat. Accenture estimates that this pattern could lead to a loss of more than $100 million in annual revenue per hospital and suggests that as consumers bring their service expectations from other industries into healthcare, providers are likely to see higher switching rates, on par with the mobile phone industry (9 percent), cable TV providers (11 percent), or even retail (30 percent).”

In order to make information mobile for the right people, it’s important for each organization to be knowledgeable about when, where, and how stakeholders need to use data. When do they need access? Where are they attempting access? What form of data is most convenient? The list of considerations is long, but pertinent. The healthcare provider and the patient aren’t the only two points within the ecosystem, but their importance should not be overlooked. Start with them and develop use cases that explore how they might want—and need—to interact with data. Begin to build technical architecture from there. In an article for Technology Spectator, Matt Hyne writes:

“By highlighting the benefits of mobility to all areas of an organization—from HR through to medical practitioners—and introducing comprehensive security policies from an early stage, health organizations can ensure a smooth adoption of new solutions. Various perspectives from within the organizations will help map out best practices and policies for the technology upgrade, and highlight levels of need and preference.”

Some industry players serve as ready examples for how to go about tackling mobile strategy. For instance, there is Penn Medicine. As detailed by Mike Miliard for Healthcare IT News:

“Penn’s mobile initiatives—from secure messaging apps to a newlydeveloped EMR patient dashboard—run the gamut. Some (like the latter) were developed internally by developers; others (like the former) come from vendors. A few apps were even thought up by frontline clinical users.”

Emulating the characteristics of a thoughtful strategy, Healthcare IT News also talks directly with Neha Patel, MD, director of quality in Penn Medicine’s division of hospital medicine:

“At Penn Medicine, the guiding philosophy for mobile tools is to look at what the problem is first, and then we develop prototypes of the solution,” says Patel. “With mobile apps, our philosophy is that we like to run tests. And we do that based on users and what their experience is.”

“Because we're developing these apps, in the end, to meet our patient care goals,” she says. “But what we need to do is make sure the right people are using the apps, for the right reason, and to help us meet those goals. Getting frontline staff to help tell us what their experiences are, with either a homegrown app or vendor, is key.”

Penn Medicine’s clear focus on users vs. technology is largely beneficial—and results in technology that works for (and with) the end users. Does your technology infrastructure enable or hinder communications and data strategy? After analyzing your organization’s current standings, it’s important to take stock of desired use cases, as well as review which tools, and/or aspects of infrastructure are hindering the effective implementation of your communication and data strategies.

As more tools become relevant, and healthcare is stretched beyond each organization’s own walls, mobility, as a whole, also becomes imperative. Technology tools aren’t the answer, but with the right strategy behind them, they can empower greater efficiencies, enhance communication, and eventually, improve outcomes within a mobile health environment. The bottom line? When it comes time for the drawing board, start with desired results, as influenced by end users. Work backwards from there to create an infrastructure that supports—and leads—your organization where it wants to go.

Reference Articles:

1.     “U.S. Hospitals Engaging Only 2 Percent of Patients via Mobile Apps, Putting as Much as $100 Million in Annual Revenue [Per Hospital] at Risk, Accenture Finds” Business Wire. January 6, 2016.

2.     “The upwardly mobile future of healthcare” Technology Spectator. January 8, 2016.

3.     “Penn Medicine’s mobile deployment strategy” Healthcare IT News. February 10, 2015.