Electronic Health Records (EHRs) represent a double-edged sword for many providers. EHRs make healthcare more efficient and less expensive and improve the quality of care, but doctors sometimes complain that these benefits come at the expense of face time with patients. As EHRs become the norm, with 97 percent of U.S. hospitals now using certified EHR technology, how can physicians maximize time with patients?
Enter the mobile device: a revolutionary clinical tool already owned by 96 percent of doctors. With an increasing number of medical apps that streamline clinical workflow, smartphones and tablets can help providers complete tasks quickly without getting distracted from patient care.
The transition to mobile devices and EHRs have both been quick, but putting the two together has been slower. While physicians increasingly own smartphones and tablets, recent surveys estimate that just 50-70 percent use their devices in for work. An even smaller group--about 10 percent--are willing to use mobile devices to access EHRs. For the most part, EHR entry today remains a task for the desktop screen.
But healthcare is changing fast. Hospital adoption of basic EHR systems increased eightfold from 2008 to 2014. Today there are more than 100,000 published mHealth apps for iOS and Android. As industry and government efforts solve problems around provider-to-provider communication, barriers to EHR adoption will all but disappear. As mobile apps become more intuitive and the industry resolves challenges around interoperability and privacy, we expect to see mobile devices increasingly integrate into the clinical experience.
New mHealth tools are making this future a reality by streamlining clinical workflow, automating vitals, and removing technology barriers to everyday tasks. Clinicians already say that smartphones and tablets enhance their ability to communicate with other clinicians and healthcare providers, and 96 percent say their smartphone is a primary way they communicate with their medical teams. New apps like Mobius Clinic are making this process more efficient and secure by moving communication to HIPAA-compliant interfaces and leveraging location awareness to coordinate the clinical team.
Smart devices that sync with EHRs can now automate vitals collection, eliminating human error and increasing face-to-face time with patients. Apps that integrate physiological monitors and the patient’s chart can capture vitals like blood pressure, temperature, weight, and pulse oximetry, while the clinician can quickly enter important data like allergies or medications without sitting down at a computer.
Finally, new apps are removing technological barriers to everyday tasks like capturing images to store in a patient’s record. Medical providers can now save any image to a patient’s chart with a single click. By making it easy to capture images from X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, clinics are seeing increased approval rates for procedural and surgical authorizations and less time spent in “peer-to-peer” discussions.
With mobile devices becoming invaluable clinical tools, we hope to see another PC diaspora similar to what we saw in the early 00’s. During the consumer PC boom of the ‘90s, PCs were in everyone’s living room. But this turned out to be a distraction and an eyesore, and desktops moved to the office, or were abandoned entirely in favor of laptops and mobile devices. Today, using a desktop or laptop in your living room when friends are over would be an awkward distraction, while smartphones have become a seamless and increasingly invisible part of the social experience.
We expect a similar concept to carry through to healthcare. Because of new mHealth apps that tightly integrate with EHRs, PCs will no longer distract clinicians from interacting with patients, and will move out of the exam room to a nurse’s stations and physician offices.
Just as mobile devices have changed our daily social lives outside of the clinic, smartphones and tablets are quickly changing healthcare. Through creative solutions that streamline the clinical workflow and shift simple tasks from PCs to mobile devices, mHealth apps can extend the benefits of EHRs in ways that help healthcare providers reclaim time with patients.