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Physicians moving towards mobile devices

By [email protected]

The world is going mobile. It seems nearly everyone has a smartphone or tablet and apps are everywhere. So are doctors following this trend?

A significant amount of evidence suggests they are. While physicians may have taken a long time to finally get on board with EHRs and leverage the benefits that come with greater connectivity, its seems that they are determined not to get left behind in the same way when it comes to mobile technologies. These tools are increasingly playing a major role in healthcare.

The signs of the mobile revolution are everywhere. Physicians are leading the charge. A survey conducted earlier this month by Manhattan Research showed that physician use of tablets for professional purposes nearly doubled last year, with 62 percent of doctors now using the technology.

Physicians who are looking for greater capabilities from their mobile devices are in luck, as a number of initiatives are underway to make it easier to use wireless devices in a healthcare setting. For example, the Federal Communications Commission recently voted to increase wireless spectrum capacity for use in healthcare. This will make it easier for doctors to link their various mobile devices securely to their EHRs.

Additionally, the White House just issued a directive to all executive departments, which includes the Department of Health and Human, instructing them to make more services available to mobile device users.

What does it all mean? A new report out from the Brookings Institution estimates that the use of mobile health IT products could help the healthcare industry save $197 billion over the next 25 years. These savings will come through improved self monitoring among diabetics, reduced treatment errors and other improvements, the report stated.

Clearly the healthcare industry is betting big on mobile technology. Stakeholders are moving aggressively to embrace these tools and leverage their abilities to improve communication and efficiency. So what’s behind the rapid adoption?

Improved wireless capabilities is one answer. In the last couple years, we have seen the major upgrade from 3G to 4G wireless service, which offers much faster speeds. At the same time, hardware has advanced by leaps and bounds.

It also helps that more physicians are comfortable with mobile tools. As technology advances, many have adopted devices in their personal lives. It’s a relatively small step to incorporate hardware into the their medical practice.

Furthermore, these technological advances are happening at a time when a growing number of physicians are making EHRs and other technologies a central part of their practices. The meaningful use program has prompted many doctors to implement systems. At the same time cloud computing, which pairs naturally with mobile devices, is emerging as a major factor. With mobile devices maturing at the same time that physicians are making the transition to greater technology utilization, it only makes sense to implement both simultaneously.

The situation is not without risk. Many commentators have voiced concerns about mobile devices and cloud storage systems being easier for hackers to infiltrate. If the future of healthcare is going to be mobile these concerns will need to be addressed.

However, assuming that the security question can be solved, mobile devices could unleash major benefits for the healthcare system. The technology has the potential to improve efficiency, boost communication and reduce healthcare costs like few developments that have come before. We’ve seen countless examples of how wireless devices can improve productivity in businesses. Here’s hoping the rush to leverage mobile technology in healthcare will have the same effect.

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