Americans can’t live without their phones, and healthcare professionals are not immune either.
On average, we spend five hours each day on mobile technology, and 77% of Americans own smartphones. In a 2012 study of healthcare professionals, 87% of doctors reported using smartphones or tablets on the job, and recent small-sample reports indicate that the number is rising.
Mobile devices make sense in healthcare. Healthcare professionals, especially those at hospitals, are constantly moving between facilities, floors, units and rooms. Mobile devices give them the ability to access necessary information at the point of care, eliminating the need to break the patient connection and workflow by constantly returning to a stationary computer. In a Merck survey, two-thirds of doctors reported using a mobile device at work more than 10 times per day to access medical information.
Though mobile devices have enhanced day-to-day healthcare operations, they are not yet to the point of replacing all old technology—95% of healthcare professionals report still using desktops. And while doctors still carry beepers, smartphones and other mobile tech add another lane of communication to that traditionally one-way street.
But communication is only one way that doctors use mobile technology in clinical settings. Healthcare pros also use their smartphones and tablets to:
- Give care to long-distance patients
- Monitor patient vital signs, activity and improvement
- Use social networks to consult colleagues
- Determine tests, scans, and procedures
- Retrieve information for diagnoses
- Participate in continuing education and training
The prevalence of mobile technology use among healthcare professionals have prompted the systems in which they work to ‘go mobile’ too. A recent survey found that nearly two-thirds of hospitals have adopted official mobile device strategies, up from one-third just five years ago. Hospitals are finding that if you can’t beat them, join them, with many implementing "Bring Your Own Device" strategies to let clinicians keep their own phones.
Some healthcare organizations are going so far as to build their own mobile technology into their strategies. Boston Children’s Hospital has dedicated significant time and resources to build its own mobile apps to solve its clinicians’ needs. The hospital has developed TriVox Health, an app that allows doctors to monitor patients in real time to help with disease management. The research team has also developed an emergency department tool called Prediction of Patient Placement (POPP) that can predict upon triage the likelihood of a patient’s hospital admission. Children’s has even developed a global disease outbreak monitoring tool, HealthMap, now used by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Management. The common denominator of these hospital’s innovations are real-time data, a sign to the future of mobile app and technology success. Mobile technology can only keep up with busy healthcare professionals if the information it gives does too.
Though the iterations of it may change, mobile technology is only going to become more essential to the future delivery of healthcare. As new digital-age habits are adopted by professionals, it’s up to healthcare organizations to not only let them be the drivers of change, but also stay one step ahead.