At this point, it’s hard to imagine life without smartphones and tablets. Is there an industry that hasn’t been affected or a business that hasn’t improved something through mobility? Hardly; but regulated industries have had a tougher time getting ahead, and healthcare is no exception.
Finally though, a transformation is taking place in this industry. “Mobile devices are having a profound impact on the way healthcare professionals interact with patients, construct business practices and transcend the physical limitations of medical offices,” according to Stephen Dart, Chief Product Manager for the Clinical Center of Excellence at ADP AdvancedMD. “The era of the mobile physician has arrived and with it new levels of freedom and flexibility.”
Research from MedData Group found that among the more than 500 physicians surveyed, two-thirds use mobile technology in their practices on a daily basis. Many respondents also reported intent for mobile expansion in the next 12 months—including apps such as mobile electronic health records (EHR) access, point-of-care drug information, patient portal use, medical diagnoses and secure texting.
According to the survey, physicians have one clear anticipated benefit from mobile enablement and a connected healthcare system: interoperable EHRs that will give them real-time access to patient information.
Cloud Changes the Game
Dart credits the cloud with empowering the new mobile physician. “Thanks to the cloud, physicians can now access reference-ready data through mobile apps from any location at any time, and be rest assured that information is up to date,” he said. “It also reduces significant risks often associated with mobile technology.” For example, storage of patient and provider data in the cloud, combined with encryption of the data, should ensure that health information is not stored on the device and is never exposed.
This all leads to enhanced care through better-informed clinical decisions and easier communication with patients. On the business side, mobile apps also help solve common practice challenges associated with billing, operational efficiency and multi-site operations.
In fact, multi-site practices are one area in which mobile devices have been particularly transformative. These geographically distributed healthcare organizations have unique challenges in managing schedules, patient records, test results and communication. This can even be the case inside a larger institution like a hospital, where doctors, staff, patients and information are always on the move. Centralized access de-fragments the organization.
A side benefit has also been a better work/life balance for the doctors themselves. “Mobile devices give physicians the ability to work from anywhere. This flexibility creates immense value for busy physicians and practice staff,” said Dart.
Apps in Action
Dr. Steven Lovato is a family practice physician with offices in Oakland and Stockton, CA. He uses a mobile app developed by ADP AdvancedMD on his iPhone. With the app, he can easily dictate messages and orders for each patient after a visit, thereby reducing his charting time by about 30%.
The app also allows him to deal with patient emergencies and issues as he travels between his two offices. Dr. Lovato said that mobile access has reduced costs, increased efficiency and improved patient care.
“We have been able to eliminate the need for computers in every examining room,” explained Dr. Lovato. “With the iPhone, I can talk to my patients and face them directly instead of facing the computer monitor. Looking at the patient and reading their body language is equally as important when trying to diagnose a problem. Looking at the computer during the patient exam was distracting.”
Dr. Lara Bruneau is a pediatrician and internist who has incorporated digital devices into her practice from the beginning of her career. She uses only EHR and relies on her iPad to speed and simplify a variety of daily tasks, such as submitting charges from wherever she is working, with only a few taps on her screen.
"We’re young, so we’ve always used technology," says Dr. Bruneau. "You can access the information you require so quickly and efficiently. I love being able to send reminders about upcoming procedures to patients, and having the world's best medical information at my fingertips in real time."
What about doctors who may be technically challenged? Dr. Bruneau recommends pairing them with tech-savvy colleagues who have been able to integrate mobile devices and processes into their daily workflow.