Healthcare providers are increasingly using mobile devices to access information they need to work more efficiently, collaborate with colleagues, and provide better care to their patients
Neil Jordan MA
General Manager, Health,
Worldwide Public Sector,
The world has changed so much in the last two decades, it is difficult to imagine how we communicated, socialised, or even navigated our physical world before smartphones and mobile devices became ubiquitous. Information, messages, games, video, and live videoconferencing are all available any time, in any location via any mobile device. Today, nurses, doctors and home healthcare providers are also using mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones to access the patient information they need to work more efficiently, collaborate with colleagues, and provide better care to their patients.
A shift in the way of working
This shift in the way health professionals work is an extraordinarily powerful thing for the health industry for two reasons. First, it drives the communication and collaboration between health professionals and patients that is the cornerstone of effective healthcare delivery. Second, it is an extremely efficient way to approach providing health services, because resources are flexible and available on demand, which is a more sustainable economic model for health organisations.
The proliferation of mobile is good news for the healthcare industry considering the continued pressure on hospitals in Europe to deliver healthcare more economically while operating within their current financial parameters. With the world’s population living longer, age-related health conditions increasing, and fewer health professionals to care for everyone, adopting technology to extend services and reach more patients is not just inevitable but the right approach.
Around the globe, countries are facing a dramatic population shift that significantly increases the proportion of older adults. The average life expectancy has risen from 47 years in 1900 to 78 years today, and is projected to be 84.5 years by the year 2050, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This shift represents significant challenges and but also presents opportunities. For example, our ageing population will need to cope with rates of dementia that are expected to triple – affecting to 135 million people worldwide by 2050, according to a report by Alzheimer’s Disease International.(1) Additionally, nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65 and the risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after age 55.
What does this mean for health professionals, patients and hospitals?
Mobile health services delivered through secure devices and apps are changing the health industry by enabling doctors, nurses and other health professionals the ability to communicate and collaborate with each other, reach more patients and deliver quality care. Whether it is on a laptop, tablet or smartphone, health professionals can now access the patient information they need on a secure platform to ensure data privacy whether they’re reaching patients remotely in rural or underserved areas, visiting house-bound patients or traveling to other facilities. This shift in the way health professionals work ultimately helps hospitals contain costs while health professionals are given ability to care for a broad spectrum of patients.
It is no surprise then that Europe is predicted to be one the largest markets for mobile health globally, representing roughly 30% of global revenues by 2017. Currently, there are more than 800 mHealth deployments worldwide, of which 119 are in Europe according to the GSMA.(2)
In recent travels, I have seen the future of mobile health being built by innovative companies and governments who are asked to do new with less.
For example, in Denmark, preventive care is a necessity as the country’s ageing population could present a strain on the government’s healthcare resources. To solve this issue, Danish municipalities use SmartCare, an application for nurses and home care workers that allows employees to view and update patient records and communicate with colleagues, doctors and pharmacies from the patients’ home or other locations on their phones or tablets. This helps seniors take care of themselves to minimise ambulance calls and readmissions to the hospital.
Recent studies from the GSMA support this and show that the use of technology as a remote intervention tool can make a considerable difference, both at individual and societal levels.(2) Early indications from a study undertaken by the Department of Health in the UK show that if used correctly, remote care can deliver a 20% reduction in emergency admissions, 14% reduction in bed days and, most strikingly, a 45% reduction in mortality rates.
Supporting this, a report from FierceMobile Healthcare, finds the most impactful trend in the global mHealth market is in remote patient monitoring.(3) In 2012, the monitoring services segment had the largest share of the mHealth market (63%), a trend which it sees continuing.
Similarly, Florence Zorg, a home care provider in the Netherlands is connecting its 4000 employees and 1500 volunteers who work in residential care homes or in clients’ homes through its Floris portal.(4) Spread across locations in Rijswijk, Delft, the Hague, Leidschendam, Voorburg, Voorschoten, and Wassenaar, Florence sought to connect several hundred laptops, 900 PDAs, more than 80 tablets and over a hundred smartphones which are used by employees who need to be mobile visiting between patients and facilities.
The portal, which features unified communications technology – phone, email, video and chat – gives Florence all the tools it needs for sharing knowledge and collaborating. According to Miranda de Gouw, Information and Automation Manager at Florence, “The aim was to provide all our employees with access to the new environment, not just the inpatient staff who work at the care facilities but also the outpatient staff who provide home care for clients. The greatest benefit is that employees can now collaborate and communicate independent of time or place and can access the documents they need in order to do their jobs from anywhere and at any time.”
An additional benefit of mobile access to patient records is that clinicians are able to enter the data as they see patients, whether that is at their bedside in the hospital, remote access or visiting them at home. This reduces the risk of transcription error and these written notes can improve care by capturing ancillary information such as photos or videos that support patient treatment.
Luton and Dunstable University Hospital
In the case of Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, this aspect of utilising tablets to capture mobile health data has translated to a 90 percent improvement in start-up times. Luton and Dunstable is one of the UK’s busiest multidisciplinary acute hospitals. It treats one million patients every 36 hours. Concerned with costs and productivity, they adopted multiple Windows 8.1 mobile applications, which allow health professionals to access all available patient information via a single secure sign on.
In the past, clinical professionals were frustrated by having to manage multiple user accounts and having to log on to different applications at each appointment. Compounding this, mobile or portable devices were not available to use on ward rounds and medical staff were unable to transfer sessions between, for example, the ward, a consulting office and an outpatient clinic.
Now, the use of slates and tablets, with Windows 8.1, carried on ward rounds, makes for a more tactile, visual experience, for both clinicians and patients. Patients’ families appreciate having information shared, and it’s also easier to source data in-between patient sessions.
Dr Gandhi, a Paediatric Consultant at Luton and Dunstable, described real impact of mobility. “I was using a desktop in my office, a shared desktop on the ward, another at an outpatients’ ward, and consulting my notes…using one portable device has made my working life more time efficient.”
Even more exciting is the vision of MedCubes, an Austrian organisation that is building a network of physicians who consult patients remotely.(5) Built as a software as a service (SaaS) model, MedCubes helps physicians expand their services to include telemedicine and virtual clinics. Part of this
concept is a small, portable ‘hospital’ including devices, connected wirelessly to a Windows 8 tablet and application scenario that allows health professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients in remote locations.
The MedCubes’ TeleAssessment app gives the doctor an overview of all connected mobile healthcare professionals as well as a map of assessments waiting for answers as well as the triage scores and waiting time of the patients. When ready for the patient conversation, a physician starts a video chat directly from within MedCubes. Imagine the potential for this for workflow for the physician – they can see more patients regardless of their geographic location. It is also more convenient for patients who will not have to travel to a hospital or clinic and wait for treatment when they feel ill.
These are only a few recent examples that show there is no segment of the health industry that cannot be supported by adopting mobile technology. As we look forward into the future, I believe we will see better care and more access driven by mobility, and this benefits all of us.
- Department of Health. The dementia challenge. http://dementiachallenge.dh.gov.uk/category/g8-dementia-summit/(accessed 26 February 2014).
- GSMA. mHealth and the EU regulatory framework for medical devices. www.gsma.com/connectedliving/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/mHealth_Regulato… (accessed 26 February 2014).
- Slabodkin G. www.fiercemobile healthcare.com/story/global-mhealth-market-reach-102-billion-2018/2013-01-09#ixzz2U1KTfl79 (accessed 26 February 2014).
- www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Case_Study_Detail.aspx?casestudyid=7100000… (accessed 26 February 2014).
- www.medcubes.com/content/products (accessed 26 February 2014).