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Mobile health devices may reduce lengths of ER visits

Learn how by securely receiving patient information on their mobile devices, emergency physicians could speed up treatment and diagnosis.

For patients admitted to an emergency department, not knowing their eventual course of treatment can make minutes seem like seem like hours. Shortening the duration of time between admittance and treatment is a no-brainer quality of care booster, especially for acute-care patients.

Enter mobile health devices: The speed with which they can send and receive data could make them an option for hospitals seeking to decrease emergency department lengths of stay.

One of the most common causes of delays in care faced by hospitals is a shortage of staff members. When a patient requires care from a certain specialist that doesn't operate out of the hospital, he must be called in. This slows down the diagnosis and treatment process, and causes frustration for patients.

Mobile health devices are enabling physicians to view information previously left up to patients to report.

I once treated a child who was admitted to a hospital in Mooresville, North Carolina with a broken leg. The child was admitted, received an X-ray and sat in the emergency room waiting for the orthopedic surgeon to make a recommendation. It took a little more than an hour to receive word on surgery options and what type of cast was needed. The questions that remain unanswered about this encounter are: Could the process of reviewing the X-ray to form treatment options have been expedited if the X-ray had been viewable on mobile devices? Are there any other admission types for which physicians should be able to access preliminary information about incoming patients on their mobile devices? Are there any reasons or scenarios that would make mobile access to the health data of ER patients less effective than viewing information in a more traditional manner?

These were questions I couldn't ask during the care episode because the child was in pain and needed treatment. Getting the patient's information in the caretaker's hands as soon as possible may have only saved 15 minutes in this case, but that would have reduced the length of this patient's discomfort. This example was not urgent compared to patients that are admitted as high risk. In high-risk cases, access to health information and the few minutes gained from having data at the physician's or specialist's fingertips is far more critical.

As mobile devices continue to gain wider adoption in the clinical and consumer spaces, they are helping emergency departments improve treatment efficiency and outcomes. Some of the uses for mobile devices include: providing access to medical imaging or granting access to data such as fetal heart monitor readings for a high-risk obstetrics patient sitting at home. Physicians that have experience with these two use cases are familiar with how the speed of delivery of data to mobile devices can help treat patients and cut wait times, which can reduce risk to the patient.

There are other mobile devices that have been introduced to emergency departments. Google Glass has been selected by some hospitals as a pilot project to evaluate its medical effectiveness. The ability to stream a patient visit or procedure in real time and provide an immediate visual to a dermatologist or other specialist via a mobile app allows more informed care decisions to be made virtually.

Mobile health devices are enabling physicians to view information previously left up to patients to report, or for the physicians to dig up after treatment was already underway. Today's mobile apps can deliver X-rays, medical charts and complete vitals readings in an instant. Hospitals should continue to evaluate mobile devices and apps and determine if they can benefit from those that provide their physicians with more timely access to patient information.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email
 editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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