Mobile Tech: Room to Grow in mHealth

3/10/2014

While many industries are using mobile technology to successfully enhance business operations, the healthcare field is slowly making strides to get itself in the same position. The federal government is taking an active role in mHealth as evidenced by changes to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and Meaningful Use. As a result, a rise in the use of mobile technology by healthcare organizations is allowing for improvements in patient care. Although signs of improvement are pointing upward, there is still work to be done.

The 3rd Annual HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), www.himss.org,  Analytics Mobile Survey reveals interesting information as to what is happening in the area of mobile device use in provider patient care improvement initiatives. Answers by the 170 respondents-each of whom are involved in one form or another of their organization’s mobile environment- give insight into six areas of concentration that make up the mHIMSS Roadmap, which is a strategic framework for use of mobile and wireless technologies. The six areas of focus are legal and policy, privacy and security, new care models, technology, ROI and payment, and standards and interoperability.

A few tidbits from the report stood out including the drop off in the number of organizations who have a mobile technology plan in place. Fifty nine percent of respondents say their organization has a plan, which is a 9% decline from the previous year. What is even harder to understand is how 4% say there is no plan being developed. In fact, that number is consistent with 2012’s survey.


Still, mobile-device technology is very much in use and should see greater growth in the coming years. Laptops and computers/workstations on wheels are the current leaders in mobile technology use, but projections show use of tablet computers will rise in the future. App use by organizations is up in comparison to last year, but, on the downside, almost 60% of the respondents admit their organization does not offer apps to its patients/consumers.

Despite the growth of mobile technology and its contribution to different industries, the majority of people in the survey do not believe as though it is having a major impact in how patient care is being handled. Forty five percent see minimal effect on healthcare provided by their organization compared to 34% who see impressive contributions.

In all likelihood, the reason for the stunted development could come down to that common refrain…a lack of money. The limited cash flow is usually the main problem most companies encounter, but other issues come into play as well. Many providers are still in the early stages of implementing mobile technology and, thus, are behind in getting things up to speed. The immaturity of vendors and limited incentives for use also hinder progress.

Still, there is a bright side to look at with the technology. The access to patient and reference information as well as the ability to review data from a remote location, access to support tools, and improved patient safety certainly produces benefits in helping provide care. As more organizations get a better grasp of the use of mobile technology, quicker, more efficient care will be available to greater amounts of people.

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