How would YOU respond in this scenario:
You’re in the hospital room with one of your patients. You notice her smile is droopy on one side and she’s having trouble speaking clearly. You know this wasn’t happening 30 minutes ago, so of course you suspect she’s having a stroke.
How would you respond? You’d activate your hospital’s stroke alert protocol, yes? But what does that activation look like?
Maybe you dash to the nearest nurses station to trigger an overhead alarm.
Or perhaps you pick up the phone in the patient’s room, page a designated number, and wait for a call-back so you can confirm the event and provide essential information.
Or, if it’s your first day on the job, you might involuntarily scream for help. Probably going to be your last day on the job, too.
Anyway, it’s a bit of a trick question. Your response is to activate the stroke alert protocol, but how you activate it depends on the technology available to you.
And that’s the point of this article. If mobile technology is available to you, your response will be targeted and efficient, reaching the right clinicians quickly, resulting in fast and accurate patient care.
No more overhead alarms. And that’s good because according to the American Nurses Association, an estimated 85% to 95% of alarms require no intervention. As a result, it’s common for clinicians to get “alarm fatigue” and simply ignore all alerts. When that happens, patient care is delayed.
No more reliance on paging technology. This one-time staple of the healthcare industry is inefficient, insecure, expensive, undependable, inconvenient, and not HIPAA-compliant.
No more being tied to a laptop or desktop computer. Doctors and nurses use their mobile phones to harness data from the EHR, combined with secure, instant, targeted messaging and real-time lab results and radiology images.
Let’s take a closer look.
Communication, hospital workflows, and patient care are three big winners from the deployment of mobile-based technology in healthcare. We’ll dig into two wins for each area to assess the impact of a mobile health app.
The hospital is a good idea. It joins skilled care providers with advanced diagnostic and treatment resources under one roof and makes it available to people who are ill or injured.
But when that one roof covers a million square feet and 400 patient beds and 3,100 clinicians, how do you enable so many clinicians, spread out over such a large area, to communicate effectively with each other?
Over the years, we’ve made good use of written notes, paper forms, desk and bedside telephones, nurse call buttons, overhead alarms, pagers, fax machines, email, and Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems. Each time communication technology in healthcare advances, communication improves.
Now, it’s true that previous technology advancements helped us. But we couldn’t shake off significant problems with time delays, proximity requirements, system failures, medication administration errors, and the inability to quickly share crisp images with the right clinicians, wherever they were.
But Mobile apps? They’re a game-changer, delivering substantial improvements in accuracy and efficiency of clinical communication.
Communication Win #1: Accuracy
Mobile technology typically supports integration with the hospital’s EHR, bringing patient information to the point of care – where it’s needed, when it’s needed. And when a care team member is not near the patient OR a computer, they retain access to all patient data. Every clinician has instant access to the same accurate data. Nobody makes decisions based on out-of-date or incomplete data.
Another occasional failure point is the accuracy of orders and prescriptions. With a mobile application, it’s quick and easy to send a message to the physician to clarify the request.
Accuracy also applies to the who with whom you’re communicating. Your mobile app should track care team members across shift changes, which ensures that you always reach the correct clinicians without time-consuming directory searches.
The Joint Commission identified a breakdown in communications as the primary root cause of more than 70% of treatment delays and sentinel events.
Communication Win #2: Efficiency
Calling and paging are somewhat workable solutions if you reach the other person right away. Interruptive, yes, but workable. However, you’re more likely to leave a message and wait for the other person to respond to your message. Might take 3 minutes. Might take 33, especially if they’re away from the hospital and have no EHR access. Not efficient.
But mobile technology solves all this if they have a cell signal. They have their mobile phone, so they’ll get your message. As soon as they read it, you’ll be able to tell and won’t wonder if they received your message. They have access to all patient data through their mobile app, so they can view relevant information and provide an informed response. No extended delays. Efficient.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be consulted, even when I’m off-campus, and still manage to give insight or guidance on patient care.” — Ernie Guzman, MD, White Memorial Medical Center, Los Angeles
Another quick note on efficiency: when a patient experiences significant changes in vital signs or condition, the entire care team receives an immediate notification on their mobile devices and can quickly respond appropriately.
The second area improved by mobile technology in healthcare is hospital workflows. Healthcare systems can expect noticeable gains in timeliness and efficiency when implementing clinical workflow solutions.
Hospital Workflows Win #1: Timeliness
A physical exam only tells part of the story. Orders for blood tests, ECGs, MRIs, and other tests provide empirical data, but they sometimes require additional clarification, particularly when a patient’s history is a factor or the patient’s condition is in flux.
That’s where a clinical communication tool provides quick access and fast replies from physicians. With just a few taps, nurses can converse with the physician to clarify the order, saving time and energy and keeping the patient’s treatment on track.
When a patient needs to be transported, transferred, or discharged, a few more taps initiates the event and immediately engages the clinicians who need to take action. No paper forms, phone calls, In Basket messages, or pages. And no unnecessary delays.
One more: the nurse call button can be integrated with the mobile app, so calls are routed directly to the patient’s nurse. The nurse receives the call immediately.
Hospital Workflows Win #2: Efficiency
As mentioned earlier, mobile technology typically supports EHR interoperability. Here are five ways EHR integration improves the efficiency of hospital workflows:
By applying the latest technology in healthcare to the types of workflows we’ve looked at, hospitals will make quick progress in reducing costs and improving outcomes.
Let’s look at our final area improved by mobile technology in healthcare: patient care.
We’ve focused on the use of mobile apps to improve communications between clinicians. However, clinicians aren’t the only users of mobile apps.
Patients are using them, too.
And now that patients are using mobile apps, it opens a new, more efficient link between physician and patient such as:
These new options are creating new dynamics for patients. When hospitals give patients mobile access to their clinical data, patient engagement rises – partly because patients feel empowered to “own” their health care.
As a result, hospitals are learning that mobile health systems quickly improve patient outcomes and patient satisfaction.
Patient Care Win #1: Outcomes
We’ve discussed the effective deployment of mobile-based technology in healthcare. We’ve also discussed the resulting communication and workflow efficiencies, as well as increased patient involvement. Together, the efficiencies and patient interaction give us at least six logical outcomes for patients:
“Over the course of one year, after controlling for patient characteristics and time trends, the researchers found that patients whose providers used secure mobile text messaging left the hospital about 0.77 days sooner, equivalent to about a 14 percent reduction in their overall hospital stay.” – HealthCanal.com, Patients Had Shorter Hospital Stays When Their Care Providers Used Secure Text Messaging to Improve Communication, Penn Study Finds
Patient Care Win #2: Satisfaction
HCAHPS scores are an objective means of measuring patient satisfaction. Several studies and articles link mobile apps and increased HCAHPS scores.
How can a mobile health app improve patient satisfaction? Two ways.
First, mobile apps replace overhead alarms. Patients say they don’t like the noise, and mobile apps eliminate a significant source of it.
Second, patients like communication. They like clinicians to keep them informed. And mobile apps open a new line of communication between physician and patient.
Third, mobile apps support post-discharge communication between the hospital and the patient, their family, and their PCP. People don’t yet expect this open line of communication, so we still see the spike in satisfaction.
Mobile technology in healthcare is still a relatively new development in the United States. Vendors are adding new bells and whistles every year. But already, this technology is delivering measurable improvements to the healthcare industry.
As you consider the benefits of mobile technology, you may wonder what it takes to implement. The good news is there’s no financial cost for learning more.