Mobile Health Technology

A mobile healthcare technology blog, sponsored by AccelaMOBILE and run by White Plume Technologies.

18
Dec

Does Healthcare IT need a ‘Disruptor’? – Day 2

Posted by on in mHealth Discussion Board
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RECENT DISRUPTORS IN HEALTHCARE IT

Before moving on to current and possible future healthcare IT disruptors, let’s first review a few disruptors of the past 5 – 7 years, all combining to create the avalanche of smart phone/mobile device adoption.

Touch Screens

The ability to touch a screen to make a phone call, view documents, and access the internet drastically changed how people interact with mobile technology. Touch screens provided an intuitive user design and eliminated the need for extras (stylus, external keyboard, and mouse). Enhanced screen real estate (resulting from the removal of the physical keyboard of the Blackberry/Palm era) allowed for more information to be visible on the screen and reduced necessary scrolling. From a healthcare perspective, touch screens made mobile phones and tablets indispensable tools in the hospital setting, where fast and easy access to data is critical. Suddenly, providers were able to use hand-held, pocket-size devices in their offices and at the bedside to enhance their care.

    • The ability to view and manipulate visual images: X-rays, scans and other internal images were once limited to film. With enhanced screen resolutions, graphics and touch screens, providers can now view, zoom in and manipulate these images on their devices – without waiting for film or paper to get to their office. 

App Stores

Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play have given the consumer access to hundreds of thousands of apps. In the healthcare arena, there are thousands of options for patients, providers, and healthcare professionals to enhance the healthcare process. The ability for users to enable their phones to do more without changing their hardware is a tremendous benefit.  A symbiotic relationship exists between users and app developers; the more users, the more developers and the more apps, the more apps the more users. In healthcare, the app market is not only changing how doctors practice, but how patients manage their own healthcare.  

3G and LTE

LTE networks are gaining popularity and offering tremendous speed; high-speed networks allow for more work to be done at a quicker pace – two big pluses for healthcare providers. In essence, enhanced networks have unlocked the power of the internet from a tethered PC and allowed connectivity from any place at any time. Both 3G and LTE offer connectivity in areas where Wi-Fi may be spotty; in healthcare, connectivity is key when it comes to mobile devices. Healthcare providers can now count on their devices and connectivity to accomplish a myriad of tasks while working on-the-go.

    • Electronic charge capture: Faster connectivity allows providers to take a previously paper based process –charge capture—and complete it electronically. Providers can not only view updated rounding lists, surgery schedules, and patient charge history, but they can now use mobile devices to electronically capture charge data so that it is immediately available to their billing team.
    • Healthcare Apps: As mentioned above, providers use apps to lookup diagnostic tools, drug references, clinical images, and state-of-the-art medical research. Patients use apps to research symptoms, track behavioral changes, and self-monitor. Some providers prescribe apps, just as they would medication. Enhanced network speeds have enabled apps to become mainstream.  
    • FaceTime: FaceTime has made remote care a reality for some providers and patients. For many patients in remote areas or with limited transportation, FaceTime has granted them face-to-face access to their healthcare providers. Providers may use FaceTime for routine or minor patient questions (e.g., pediatrics, family practice). FaceTime could be an indispensible tool for checking in on the elderly and in preventive care in general. It has the potential to reduce costs and allow providers to see more patients face-to-face; albeit not in person. The potential for FaceTime is tremendous. 
    • Multi-tasking: Healthcare providers are a notoriously busy group of individuals. Clinical demands and frequent emergent situations leave little time for other tasks (patient follow up, nurse/office communication, personal scheduling and communication). Fast network speeds afford healthcare providers and others an opportunity to accomplish various tasks quickly – and still remain on call for emergencies as they occur.
    • Availability and Cost: Not many years ago, “smart phones” were limited to Palm Pilots and Blackberrys. Screen resolution was subpar, the UI was lacking, connectivity was slow and they were expensive! These devices were limited to ‘techy’ business people and certainly were not in the hands of many healthcare providers. Today, not only are there numerous options when it comes to mobile technology – both in smartphones and tablets – but competition has forced prices down to make these devices affordable and incredibly popular among the general public, including most healthcare providers. New devices are hitting the market each month, and with them, price competition increases: a positive for those seeking the newest device at an affordable price. 

In the recent years a cycle has emerged: user friendly hardware + slick software (OS) + app stores + FAST networks + reduced costs = adoption. Increased adoption leads to more apps, which in turn leads to more adoption, which then leads to better networks, more apps, and increased competition. Luckily, this is a good cycle for consumers. 

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