Mobile Technology – A Giant Leap for Healthcare?

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I genuinely believe that technology has the power to innovate and transform healthcare delivery by increasing efficiency, cutting costs, and allowing healthcare professionals to focus on delivering the very best in patient care.

Small steps and giant leaps

Take mobility – the apparently simple benefits it delivers have the potential to make a major impact on care delivery.

For instance, the ability to access and update patient records in real time, during a home consultation or on ward rounds, is on paper a relatively insignificant change with seemingly modest benefits to clinicians. But in reality, it positively impacts the whole healthcare community, cutting duplication of work and making accurate, up to date information instantly available to colleagues. Easier and quicker access to healthcare information supports more knowledge-based decision making, improving patient safety and outcomes. And speedier, better informed decisions improve productivity, saving healthcare organizations money through more efficient use of existing resources.

Hot topic

Mobile technology is hardly new; most of us having been using cell phones, laptops, and tablets in both our business and personal lives for years, but it has become a hot topic and one that any industry ignores at its peril.

Only in October, when Gartner identified the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015, mobility topped the list. The 2013 HIMSS Analytics Mobile Survey meanwhile, indicated that mobile devices are already widely used in US healthcare, while in the UK, the success of the NHS National Mobile Health Worker Project has demonstrated many benefits, from reduced data entry to productivity improvements and significant savings in terms of referrals and admissions. In a recent IDC study of healthcare executives in Western Europe, around 30% reported that they used mobile technologies to access EMRs and/or remote patient monitoring. The same document predicted that clinical mobility expenditure in this region will reach $2.4 billion by the end of 2014 and that over the next three years, investment will outgrow the market.

Mobility pioneers

Across the globe, great things are already happening in healthcare. In the UK, Lorenzo Mobile will soon make patient information available via many different devices across various care settings, starting with ward rounds support, followed by bedside monitoring and home care support for district nurses.

And in Australia not-for-profit private healthcare group Cabrini Health is leading the way, having rolled out CSC’s Mobility Suite in 2011. Clinicians can access multiple hospital information systems via a single, mobile interface, and visiting specialists can use their own personal devices to check patient lists, order tests, and view results.

Significantly, clinician system uptake was voluntary – and exceeded expectations. By January 2012, 320 individual users were using Mobility Suite to review 20,000 patient results via mobile devices.

Patients taking control

Ultimately care innovation must always goes back to patients though – how will they feel about their personal information being instantly available on a clinician’s own mobile device?

Well, in 2012, Deloitte reported that consumers are driving demand for mHealth technologies, with mobile apps increasing consumer engagement in healthcare. And with text message appointment reminders effectively reducing missed appointment rates in many countries, it seems that patients will actively participate in their care, particularly if the devices they use in their everyday lives are involved.

Going back to small steps and giant leaps, those text message reminders not only encourage patient engagement, but also reduce missed appointments – helping prevent valuable resources from being wasted. And mobile access to relevant information will give doctors more time to spend with patients rather than hunting down test results and searching for lost paperwork.

Not that the adoption of mobile technology isn’t without its challenges. Most healthcare IT systems and clinical solutions are relatively old and not designed for more innovative technologies. This is a challenge rather than a barrier though, and one that can be resolved with an effective mobile strategy and by working in partnership with a vendor that has expertise in this area.

I believe that mobile technology is essential for extending care beyond traditional settings and enabling more accessible, sustainable, and effective patient care.

As Associate Professor Simon Woods, Cabrini Health’s Executive Director Medical Services, says “…the most obvious and immediate benefit we’re seeing is much faster and more convenient access to information for clinical decision making, which means we can provide even better care for our patients and their families.”

That’s what healthcare innovation should always be about.

By Cem Tanyel, Vice President and General Manager, Healthcare and Life Sciences Software Solutions CSC

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