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HIMSS survey: 80% of clinicians use iPads, smartphone apps to improve patient care

By Jennifer Bresnick

In corporate offices, on the street, in coffeehouses, and in the home, smartphones and tablets are becoming ubiquitous, changing the way people interact with each other and interface with the world.  Doctor’s offices are no exception to this trend, as mobile devices like iPads, laptops, and smartphones revolutionize the way physicians capture information and connect with patients.  The 2nd Annual HIMSS Mobile Technology Survey, released this week, examines the trend towards the integration of mobile technology in the clinical setting.  Results indicated that 93% of physicians use some sort of mobile device daily, and 80% use the technology to directly influence and improve patient care.

Laptops and workstations on wheels remain the most popular devices for physician use, since they provide direct access to the full EHR interface, but tablets are catching up quickly.  With the popularity and relative cost-effectiveness of tablets like the iPad, Kindle Fire, and other Android devices, even devices not specifically designed for healthcare are finding a place in the consultation room.  According to the survey, approximately 30% of physicians and non-physician clinicians use mobile devices to facilitate between one quarter to three quarters of patient services, while 9% indicate that 75% to all of their services rely on mobile technology to some degree.

All but 2% of respondents supply their physicians with the necessary devices, and 75% indicated that they will be expanding their inventory of devices to increase distribution of technology to their staff, with over half planning to do so within three months.  More than half of these participants said that they would be including tablets not specifically designed for healthcare purposes in their purchases.  Smartphones will be acquired by 35% of organizations, while only 4% indicated they would invest in pagers, the traditional on-call technology for decades.

With smartphones come apps, used by both patients and physicians to access records, look up health information, and communicate with each other.  Sixty-one percent of physicians reported that they use clinical apps developed by a third party or an HIT vendor, although that number dropped to only 13% of patients.  Approximately 65% of physicians used apps to view patient information or lab results and look up non-PHI health information, while just over half received clinical notification, and 45% collected patient data such as vital signs at the bed side.  E-prescribing was employed by 37%, and visual data, such as videos and still images, were captured by just over a quarter.

But only 5% of organizations have created an app “marketplace” in order to distribute patient-facing apps, and the development of such a system was only on the radar of an additional 11%.  Despite 82% of organizations believing that mobile technology would improve access to patient information, budgetary concern was the top barrier to investment in apps and devices.   Seventy-one percent of respondents cited a lack of funding as their major roadblock.  Half of participants noted that the lack of a dedicated IT staff was impeding their development, while limited incentives to invest in the technology deterred 41%.

Despite the associated costs, tablets and smartphones are making clear inroads into patient care, with the majority of physicians and health organizations interested in developing their mobile technology policies and investing in equipment.  Mobile technology represents a new and increasingly popular way to make patient interaction and data collection as simple as slipping a phone out of a pocket, allowing instant access to the information that physicians need to provide quality care.





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