Putting the 'smart' in smartphones: Hospitals see many benefits in new platforms

By Eric Wicklund
02:50 PM

Remember the good old days on "ER," "St. Elsewhere" and "Chicago Hope" where doctors and nurses rushed up and down hospital corridors, shouting orders, looking for charts and saving lives in the nick of time?

Times have changed. Today's clinicians now can do everything with a smartphone, from chatting with colleagues to pulling up medical records to locating needed supplies. That makes the "saving lives" part so much easier.

That was the vision put forth in a Tuesday morning education session at the 2013 HIMSS Conference & Exhibition by Darren Dworkin, vice president of enterprise information systems and chief information officer at the Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai Health System, and Trey Lauderdale, founder and vice president of innovation for Voalté, a Florida-based developer of mobile healthcare communication systems.

To a packed audience, Lauderdale explained how mobile health technology is improving critical workflows in the hospital setting, and Dworkin offered advice from a provider who has deployed an iPhone-based platform for its clinicians.

"It's probably one of our highest satisfaction projects that we've ever had," he said.

Lauderdale, whose company has more than 25 hospital clients and is known for its distinctive bright pink scrubs and black shirts, said 2012 "was a banner year in general for smartphones," and he expects 2013 to be as good, if not better. A driver of that growth, he said, is EMR vendors, who are now catching on to the mHealth trend and developing mobile versions of their products.

Dworkin said Cedars-Sinai first looked into a smartphone-based communications system in 2007, and developed its current platform after years of trial and error. He called it "a whole new paradigm for us," and expects to integrate the system with a number of clinical and operational uses.

"This technology is going to push the envelope," he said.

Lauderdale offered several tips for administrators considering a smartphone-based system, such as a phased-in approach. Different departments have different workflows and different needs that have to be studied, he said, so the "big bang approach" won't work.

In addition, he said, "we've seen a lot of failed smartphone projects because the physicians were not brought in on the front end."

Above all else, both said, make sure the goals are clear and attainable (Dworkin said some department sometimes have wild fantasies about how much a smartphone system can do), get everyone's opinion, and survey often after the system is up and running to make sure it's working.