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Mobile Health: Present and Future

Wednesday, December 14, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Joy Ingram
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Andrew Spottswood, Senior Technology Consultant, TROI IT Solutions

I’m a road warrior.  Not in the “warrior” sense, but in the “staring-at-the-interstate-for-hours-a-day” sense - while I ping pong to and from clients across the Northwest.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  It’s actually a lot of fun; I love visiting clients and seeing the beautiful landscapes we live in, not to mention that I can stay connected through my mobile office, smart phone and laptop constantly while I travel.  I’m so connected I recently realized I haven’t turned on my “Out of Office” email notification all year while on the road because I am never far away from my data and applications.  Call me a nerd, but I consider it a privilege to catch up on email and work on spreadsheets while sitting on the Pacific Coast after a day of travel!

The idea of having access everywhere and being mobile continues to appeal to individuals in all industries, but, just recently, healthcare has more options available than ever.  In fact, half of the electronic medical records systems on the market now come with Apple iPad apps for doctors (cnn.com). The integration of mobile phones and tablets into healthcare is guaranteed only to grow due to increased demand from mobile workers.  In fact, a recent survey showed 38% of physicians with a mobile device use a medical-related app on a daily basis.  Surprisingly, that number grew to over 50% when the same group of physicians was asked to predict their mobile application usage over the next 12 months (marketwatch.com).  That’s right – more than half of all physicians will be using their smart phone or tablet for medical-related work in 2012!

The switch to mobile is happening whether we are ready for it or not.  With workstations and laptops the norm in healthcare organizations, the next wave of mobile adoption is upon us.  Just this summer, a new “iPad only” EMR was granted meaningful use certification, further confirming this is not just a trend that will pass (healthcareitnews.com).  Now with claims of increased productivity and improved patient care all bundled into existing EMR software, there’s little reason not to implement an integrated mobile application.   Real-time access to information actually saved a life in Memphis earlier this year (technologyreview.com).  The doctors in Memphis were able to review a recent procedure at another facility, prompting them to skip several procedural steps that ultimately saved the life of a patient on the operating table.  Score one for live data and health information exchange!

However, the concerns with adding a new technology like this are obvious: How do you secure the data on all those mobile devices, and how can we provide support (help desk) to a staff member if they have an issue accessing information over their mobile device?  If your organization commits to offering mobility products, it’s vital to have systems in place to properly secure patient data and ensure reliable delivery of the applications.  Fortunately, the rise of mobile applications has led to an entire industry dedicated to managing and securing all kinds of mobile devices (iPhone/iPad, Android, and BlackBerry) from a single interface.  Platforms like Air Watch and MaaS360 are cloud-based technologies that allow organizations to deploy, manage, and secure all aspects of a mobile device from anywhere in the world.  These platforms are robust enough for the largest and most security-conscious organizations in the world to use them, but they also scale to an average health clinic at a reasonable rate.

The move to mobile devices is inevitable as healthcare providers require more personalized, on-demand information to perform their jobs.  The demands on the organization to not only offer mobile applications, but to adequately support and secure the devices, should be the primary driver of technology adoption.  When properly utilized, the ability for practitioners to stay connected with real-time data wherever they are can only lead to a more flexible and productive work environment.  Even if their work has them sitting on the Pacific Coast.

NWRPCA welcomes and regularly publishes white papers and articles submitted by members, partners and associates with subject matter expertise. The appearance of any guest publication in our Health Center News database represents the views of the author and does not constitute endorsement by NWRPCA of the stated opinions or perspectives, nor does it suggest endorsement of the contributor's products or services.

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