Physician adoption of mobile devices outpacing software development

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Mobile devices in healthcare organizations are no longer a rare sight – some reports suggest that as many as 80% of physicians use mobile devices at work. Yet despite this rapid adoption, a survey from SpyGlass Consulting indicates that physicians believe that mobile devices currently fill a limited number of uses and fall short of their potential.

Spyglass Consulting, a market intelligence firm focused on mobile computing and wireless technologies within the healthcare industry, surveyed 100 physicians via phone interviews.

One note, though, is that these interviews were done in the spring of 2010, so the findings may not be entirely applicable to the current landscape.

The report, Point of Care Computing for Physicians 2012 indicates that while 98 percent of physicians interviewed are using mobile devices to support both personal and professional workflows, 83 percent of them are still using desktop computers as their primary source for accessing patient data when at the hospital, clinic or home.

Gregg Malkary, managing director of Spyglass Consulting, explains that one of the critical barriers to making mobile devices more useful is that the pace of device adoption is much faster than appropriate software development,

“Part of the problem lies in the pace of development. While the devices are being adopted ‘at a phenomenally rapid pace,’ they’re not being redesigned to fit the clinical needs of the physicians. For example, the study indicates 80 percent of physicians surveyed believe the iPad shows promise for healthcare, but at present it can only be used as a communications platform.”

The key component, Malkary contends, is the lack of native apps for healthcare professionals.

“The iPad represents only one component of an overall end-to-end clinical solution. Significant software innovation will be required to realize the vision for anytime, anywhere clinical computing. Clinical applications must be rewritten and optimized to take advantage of the native capabilities of the Apple iPad and other mobile devices including gesture-based computing, natural language speech recognition, unified communications and video conferencing.”

This contention is something that intuitively makes sense – we’ve previously discussed how accessing desktop environments with VMWare and Citrix, while enabling mobile access, fall far short on realizing the potential of the device to improve efficiency. There are however, many apps–particularly clinical reference apps–that take advantage of the capabilities of mobile devices to make it easier to access information at the point of care. Some EMR vendors, both traditional platforms like Epic and cloud-based platforms like Epocrates or Practice Fusion, are even moving towards native apps that do the same.

Another finding of the survey is that communication remains an enormously inefficient process in healthcare. Physicians reported difficulty in communicating with their colleagues, patients, and office staff. And when it comes to coordinating patient care, particularly transitions of care, this can be dangerous; 56% of patients survey reported that transitions of care were something they were particularly concerned about.

This, again, is another area in which mobile devices can help. Software that can consolidate the many different streams of information coming in to the physician and enable the ability to easily and quickly respond would make an enormous impact on physician efficiency. For example, the Allscripts mobile app enables physicians to receive messages regarding patients, refill prescriptions easily, call their patients, and even enter a phone note into the EHR.

The report, however, additionally cites resistance among health IT due to concerns over security, system stability, cost, and so on. Despite the fact that this report was compiled nearly two years ago, its clear that the challenges they found remain today.

Source: mHiMSS

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