The Future of Mobility in Healthcare
Society is now demanding quick and immediate access to virtually everything with only a few taps on a mobile device. This includes our healthcare needs. Tired of having to wait until your doctor calls you with your blood test results? Now you can access your results almost instantaneously on your patient portal via your mobile device. Need a prescription refill and don’t feel like waiting on hold for over an hour to speak with your doctor? There’s an app for that.
According to a study from Pew Research in April of this year, more than 80% of Americans now own a smartphone, and roughly half of adults in the U.S. own a tablet. Ownership and use of mobile devices by U.S. healthcare providers is about on par, and the vast majority of physicians reported using their smartphones for professional purposes. This means that doctors, like the rest of us, are well accustomed to using apps in their daily lives.
As more Americans get vaccinated and we move gradually into a post-pandemic world, the demand for 24×7 access to information has never been greater. What does this demand mean for healthcare workers and the patients they serve?
- Always-on information access powers a better healthcare experience
Many physicians are severely burned out from battling the COVID-19 virus for more than a year. According to Medscape’s 2021 Physician Burnout Report, 69% of physicians said they were somewhat or very happy in 2020 before the pandemic started — a figure that fell to 49% as COVID-19 raged. No doubt there were many contributing factors for this precipitous decline in provider satisfaction; it’s a complex equation. But rather than contributing to the problem, it’s past time for healthcare IT to help solve it. One way is by increasing the usefulness of mobile devices as a tool to support providers delivering clinical care. If physicians have easier and immediate access to patient information, they can quickly make appropriate clinical decisions and render care-in-the-moment, at the bedside, or expedite other processes that may lead to quicker pain relief, an earlier discharge, or a better outcome. And they conceivably can do it from anywhere, even outside the four walls of the hospital.
A hospital’s or practice’s mobile IT capabilities can affect more than care delivery; they also are essential for the organization’s financial well-being. When choosing providers, patients are increasingly ranking ease of access – to providers, to ancillary care team resources, and to their own records — alongside the quality of care they are being provided. These are all elements of the patient experience, which for a growing number of people matters a lot. For an average hospital, the cost of losing just one patient comes to $1.4 million over the patient’s lifetime.
- The rise of telehealth
Even before 2020, telehealth was on the rise, with nearly 1.1 million visits conducted in 2019. What was previously an option became a necessity when stay-at-home orders prevented most people from seeking in-person, non-emergency care. The CDC reported that early in the pandemic, in-person ambulatory health care visits declined by 60% across the United States, while telehealth visits increased, accounting for up to 30% of total care provided in some locations. Now, telehealth is embedded in the healthcare culture; it’s a convenience that many have come to expect and don’t want to give up. Mobile tools are essential for providers to deliver and for patients to receive telehealth services.
- Technology powering care-in-the-moment
The goal for healthcare provider organizations is to deliver “care-in-the-moment” – principally for patients, but also for patients’ families and loved ones. Consider that today, mobile technology empowers us to easily check the real-time status of a commercial airline flight or an Uber ride your child is taking; we know where they are and when they’ll reach their destination virtually every second of their trip. Yet most hospitals currently do not have an easy, instantaneous way to inform authorized family members about patients who are transitioning care within the hospital: Is my mother out of surgery? Has she returned to the floor from post-op recovery? When will she be discharged? Creative use of mobile tools can fill this information gap, and save clinicians time playing “telephone tag” with family members.
At the patient’s bedside, a provider armed with a mobile app can share lab results, radiology images, and other data to help the patient stay informed and feel more engaged in their own care. Furthermore, the provider can actually accelerate care delivery by placing an order from the bedside rather than waiting until she gets back to the nursing station. All of this improves the patient experience and contributes to reducing their length of stay, decreasing their health risks and returning them back to their normal lives sooner.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought home to hospital clinicians and administrators alike the value of mobile devices in delivering and managing patient care. Giving providers the means to instantly access and act on patient data quickly – in real-time, anytime, anywhere – through a mobile-optimized EHR system enables better care delivery and a better overall experience for patients and their families, whenever and for whatever reason they find themselves in the hospital.