The power of mobile healthcare technology to save lives is not in the device – its in the cloud

Iltifat Husain, MD, contributed to this piece

A recent headline by TUAW caught my eye, “iPad credited with saving a man’s life”. The article was focused on how the iPad was used by physicians to help manage a friends heart attack, specifically how they used the iPad to access their friends medical history on the iPad.

While Mr Sande is correct that the iPad probably contributed to Mr Monigle’s good outcome, it was not just the iPad alone that allowed such timely care to be provided to Mr. Monigle. It is the offshoot of the technology spawned by devices such as the iPhone, iPad, Galaxy Tab, etc. that led to this good outcome.

Behind these flashy devices, what will really resonate with many physicians is the ability to view a patient’s medical record from anywhere – a capability that which would have been impossible even a few years ago.

Those of us in healthcare are very much aware of the challenges facing us, particularly the increasing age of patients with multiple co-morbidities and complex medication regimens. We need to be able to care for them in a way that has not been done before, shifting from a system that manages discrete episodes of illness to one that manages chronic disease.

Now with financial pressures coming from CMS (Center for Medicare Services) in the form of value based purchasing and the increasing number of quality measures to be reported electronically as a result of meaningful use, physicians and healthcare facilities are looking to technology to help them better care for and manage patients in our healthcare system.

The thought of being able to view patient data such as vitals, etc. on a handheld device has always captured our imagination. This stems for some of us  from when we fist saw it on Star Trek as a little “handheld device” that Dr. McCoy would wave around the body of someone he was examining and get an almost instantaneous read out of the biological readings.

It started out as science fiction, but now is closer to reality than ever before. The power of mobile technology, especially in healthcare, is gaining increased attention and in the last couple of years there has been an explosion in research and development that continues to gain momentum and bring about even more innovative ways to monitor and care for patients.

Electronic health record (EHS) vendors, I believe, are feeling the pressure from their clients who are asking for more functionality from the EHR mobile apps to be able to not only view information but to be able to manipulate the information in the patient’s chart in real time. Another source of pressure is from the continuing progression in mobile technology to incorporate new functionality that hopefully will provide physicians the tools they need to care for patients in any situation, not just in a healthcare facility.

Companies like Airstrip Technologies (previously reviewed) are bringing what was once considered science fiction to reality by allowing physicians to remotely view and have access to key data from anywhere. Imagine a similar capacity being offered to outpatient physicians – the ability to access patient’s home weights, blood pressure, and other vital data. Getting the right information to the right person at the right time is the key to making mobile healthcare transformative.

These are the kinds of applications that have the potential to truly affect how a patient is cared for even when the physician cannot physically be at the bedside. Mobile technology is going to be a critical factor given the physician AAMC and shortage.

Ironically, I read the article written by Mr. Sande the day that Apple released their latest version of the iPad. While the iPad is a phenomenal device, it is the mobile technology that came about as a result of such popular devices and the subsequent application of this technology in healthcare that will allow stories like Mr. Monigles to become the norm as they should.

Author:

Ravi Nerella

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