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Mobility in healthcare on the rise, but not without barriers

The adoption of mobile is steadily on the rise in healthcare, but experts say there are still barriers that the industry needs to address.

Barriers may remain, but the adoption of mobility in healthcare is increasing, and use cases are numerous, experts said at HIMSS 2016 in Las Vegas.

"We are seeing physicians using iPads or some level of tablets; we've seen patients engaging with iPhones or Android devices," Harun Rashid, vice president of Global Health Services and CIO at Children's Hospital of UPMC in Pittsburgh, said. "The mobility factor has actually assisted significantly in helping [the] transformation of some of the care in some areas."

For example, Rashid said physicians are now able to do more interactive work with the help of mobile, and mobile is keeping physicians better informed.

Use cases for mobile healthcare growing

Harun Rashid, vice president of Global Health Services and CIO at Children's Hospital of UPMCHarun Rashid

But there are numerous other use cases for mobility in healthcare, according to Arta Bakshandeh, senior medical officer at Alignment Healthcare in Orange, Calif.: "Post-discharge patients and chronic disease management and frail patients." He also noted use cases "around post-surgical patients, post-knee, post-hip replacement, looking at actual movement, and then in chronic disease management, looking at patients with heart failure, COPD, diabetes, high blood pressure; looking to minimize readmissions; [and] improving patient quality."

David Gardiner, COO at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, told SearchHealthIT at HIMSS 2016 that Intermountain Healthcare has a number of mobile healthcare options. For example, physicians can access the next day's surgery schedule or access the fetal tracings of a mother who is in the labor and delivery suite and is being monitored before she goes into labor.

However, Gardiner stressed that when it comes to mobility in healthcare, it should address the question: "What's the job you're trying to achieve?"

Arta Bakshandeh, senior medical officer at Alignment HealthcareArta Bakshandeh

For example, Gardiner said, "if I have a problem where the providers aren't signing their notes, perhaps it makes sense to have a mobile option where a provider can securely sign in and then sign [off on] those notes ... or those orders because then you're making it easier for that provider to complete the record."

Barriers to mobility in healthcare

Of course, mobility in healthcare is not always appropriate for every situation in healthcare.

"It's really hard to look at an X-ray really well on a phone," Gardiner said. "You probably need a bigger viewer to actually see whether you had a nodule in your lung."

Gardiner added that, "I see mobile as more of an extension of what jobs you're trying to do versus mobile will take over ... because healthcare is kind of complex, and you want to make sure that the complexity of the information, of the care that's being provided is being captured in a way that represents [it], and it's accurate."

David Gardiner, COO at Intermountain HealthcareDavid Gardiner

Another challenge facing mobility in healthcare is figuring out how to handle all the data that is created and collected.

"How ready are the hospitals for utilizing the data? And what action plan would the hospitals have and payer groups have to action that data?" Bakshandeh said. Not only that, but who will action that data, and what would the workflow look like? For example, would a primary care provider or specialist receive a message or text and then take action based off that data?

Furthermore, it's also important to know how real time that data is, Bakshandeh said. Would that message contain real-time data and come "through the patient portal, or is it more of a daily run or weekly run kind of analytics where you don't find out [the results] until tomorrow when, oftentimes, it's too late?"

Using data effectively improves quality

Bakshandeh said that at Alignment Healthcare they are working with their providers to action patient data from mobile devices on a daily basis.

"We've found that, that drives down cost and improves quality, which ultimately is the goal for the patient," he said.

And although there are some kinks to be worked out, Rashid believes mobility in healthcare has already done a lot to improve patient care.

"I think it has greatly assisted the delivery of care and the delivery of information," Rashid said. "Better delivery of information, which leads to better delivery of care."

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