Clinicians Going Back to Their Roots Through Mobile Technology
I recently came across in interesting article in Healthcare IT News, “Health calls thrive with IT,” reporting that the number of medical house calls is steadily on the rise thanks to innovations in information technology. According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the number of house calls paid by Medicare has increased by 100,000 per year, for almost every year, since 2001.
It’s great to know that house calls, a healthcare service reminiscent of the 1950’s, is coming back to practice. Doctors agree that seeing people in their environment allows them to get a better grasp of what their lives are like; and therefore, can assess their progress more accurately.
Whether it’s an increase in the number of mobile healthcare workers or clinicians working in multiple facilities, the healthcare industry is becoming increasingly mobile. And technology is the driving force that is letting this happen. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, advancements in portable medical devices, information technology, point-of-service laboratory tests, and handheld computers all have attributed to the comeback of home health visits.
Mobile technology provides clinicians with the gift of flexibility and versatility, allowing them to be freed from their traditional environments and into real-world clinical settings without compromising access to critical patient information at the point of care. From a patient perspective, mobile technology is providing them with greater independence and quality of life. Patients such as the elderly and the chronically ill, for example, who are too sick to leave their homes and disabled can be easily monitored and cared for from the comfort of their own environment.
Clinicians have been adopting mobile technology solutions in their practice for decades, but they’ve had their clear limitations. The COW (computer on wheels) was introduced as a way for clinicians to bring computers closer to the bedside, but its size actually hindered mobility and cluttered hallways. Business-centric laptops were also introduced, but clinicians soon realized that they were a unique breed of user and needed a technology solution that was better suited for healthcare applications. Also, tablet computers were widely adopted but users found that they weren’t very comfortable to hold, lacked durability and had an unsatisfactory battery life.
So what are the elements that clinicians and healthcare facilities should look for when equipping highly mobile professionals?
- Mobile, durable, and rugged computing devices – The mobile technology solution must be able to withstand the drops, spills and blows associated with being a mobile worker. Whether it’s a home care nurse leaving the laptop in a sweltering car or a doctor dropping the device when traveling to and from a patient’s home, the mobile technology solution must be able to keep up with the demands of the application.
- An ergonomic and light-weight design – If mobile healthcare workers are expected to rely on mobile technology, the device should be comfortable to hold, light-weight and have a portable design. Otherwise, it will become a nuisance and hinder the efficiency of day to day clinical activities.
- Advanced wireless technology – Advancements in wireless technology has enhanced mobility in both facilities and in-home environments. Especially, in the area of embedded wireless wide-area networking (WWAN) as they offer healthcare workers new and higher levels of functionality and flexibility.
- Long battery life – Not only must the mobile technology solution have a long battery life, it must also be appropriate for the healthcare industry. A device with a typical four-hour battery life is inadequate in mobile healthcare applications where clinicians work long hours often away from plugs and power sources.
Those in the healthcare industry should take a moment to understand the powers of information technology, and the benefits it provides to clinical workload, business and most importantly patient safety. The healthcare market is experiencing major challenges right now, including nursing shortages, an aging workforce, greater demand for healthcare services, to name a few, and the fact that technology advancements are able to initiate a shift in the way healthcare is being delivered, in an effort to better serve patients, is remarkable.
In a sense, technology is bringing back clinicians to their roots – patient care. Home doctor’s visits, a thing of the past and the epitome of patient care, can be reinstated thanks to the advancements in today’s technology.