Health Care Professionals Tapping into Mobile Devices

Optimized-TabletMobile devices are moving quickly from convenient social gadgets to legitimate accessories for health care workers and other professionals. Doctors, nurses and hospital administrators are discovering that mobile technology can be used in a variety of practical and efficient ways to improve administrative, technical and medical tasks.

In fact, more than eight in 10 physicians in the United States own a smartphone, according to Manhattan Research. Meanwhile, 62% owned a tablet computer in 2012, with half of the physicians using the devices at the point of care. A year before, just 27% of physicians owned a tablet, Manhattan Research reported.

The advantages are obvious: mobile devices quickly deliver medical records and other information directly into the hands of the treating physician and other members of the health care team. Tasks are synched and streamlined, meaning health care professionals can focus more on patient care than on administrative duties.

As the availability, functionality and quality of handheld devices increases – at the same time as price points are decreasing – it’s a safe bet that health care professionals will be using mobile technology for many of the same functions they previously performed from behind a desk.

Also, physicians and other medical providers are increasingly likely to use mobile devices to consume medical news and information. A March 2013 report by BulletinHealthcare found that 52% of health care professionals accessed the company’s news briefings via handheld computers or smartphones. That represented a 25% increase over 2012.

Of course, the type of mobile device used will depend on the individual professional and his or her specific needs. For some, a smartphone may provide enough bandwidth; for others, the larger screen of a tablet may be necessary. Additionally, surveys have found that specific fields may better lend themselves to the use of a mobile device, such as emergency room care and cardiology.

As mobile technology becomes a standard feature across all aspects of society, health care providers are likely to find that their patients are increasingly comfortable with the use of handheld devices to relay medical information. This may include creating simple charts on an iPad in order to illustrate test results, such as a patient’s blood pressure and cholesterol readings over time.

For doctors on hospital rounds, mobile devices offer tremendous potential in terms of patient consultations. The ability to see results – as opposed to simply hearing them recited – can be a huge step toward putting patients at ease and ensuring their understanding of their diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan. That, in turn, helps create a relationship of trust.

Health Care Apps a Healthy Market

The array of apps used by doctors and other care providers is extensive and expanding, from anatomical apps to medical reference tools and drug information repositories. For example, the AirStrip Cardiology app gives doctors access to patients’ heart readings, while Epocrates offers diagnostic lab test tools, medical dictionaries, drug-interaction checkers and treatment guides.

Epocrates, which is owned by athenahealth, was listed as the most popular medical app in a recent study by Manhattan Research. More than one-third of physicians who use Epocrates on their smartphone launch the app at least three times a day, according to the 2013 Taking the Pulse study.

Addressing Security Issues

Despite the numerous advantages of mobile devices to health care professionals, there are information security issues that cannot be dismissed. With many physicians using their own devices for work-related purposes, concerns have arisen as to how smartphones and tablets can be incorporated into patient care while abiding by privacy regulations, such as the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Health care providers, both individuals and organizations, must guard against hacking and unintentional dissemination of private patient data. This includes complying with rules regarding the disposal of electronic media, hardware and digital devices used to store patient information.

Even with security and privacy concerns, the shift toward digital and mobile promises to continue gathering speed across the health care industry. A February 2013 study by the information technology group CompTIA found that about 75% of health care providers surveyed believe mobile is beneficial.

As CompTIA noted in a press release, “Many health care providers are on the cusp of expanding their use of smart mobile devices from routine business activities, such as email and scheduling, to more advanced, care-specific uses.”

This guest post was provided by Tyana Daley who writes about health care administration for University Alliance, a division of Bisk Education Inc. You can follow her on Twitter @Tyana_Daley

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