Smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming a mainstay in healthcare. Physicians point to three main benefits of mobile devices for their practice: better staff coordination, improved patient communication, and mobile access to EHRs.

That’s according to a 2018 mobile health survey by Physicians Practice, which revealed that mobile device use by clinicians is now ubiquitous. Over 75 percent of the practice management website’s readers say they use mobile health in their practice on a weekly basis. That statistic reflects what many physicians now know – when properly integrated, mobile devices are a revolutionary clinical tool.

Practicing physicians say mobile devices already benefit healthcare in at least three key ways.

1) Communication between staff members

The most common use of mobile devices in healthcare is to coordinate the care team, mostly through secure messaging.

While countless consumer apps already support texting and calling, there’s a push to use HIPAA-compliant software to ensure patient data stays secure. The result is healthcare communication platforms that bring together calling, texting, paging, screen sharing, and video chat. Examples include Voalte, Careflow, Spok, and Halo, just to name a few.

2) Patient communication

Mobile devices allow providers to more easily engage patients through secure text messaging, patient portals, and telemedicine. These technology-enabled forms of patient engagement boost patient satisfaction, loyalty, and health outcomes. Secure messaging also has specific benefits like boosting chronic disease management by ensuring that patients stick with follow-up procedures and return for future appointments.

“According to a recent HIMSS survey of healthcare professionals, 77 percent of respondents say they want their clinical communications solutions to integrate with workflow management and documentation.”

Meaningful use incentives also accelerated the implementation of patient portals. As of 2015, most hospitals allow patients to view, download and transmit their health information online. As early as 2016, roughly 60 percent of healthcare professionals reported connecting with patients via mobile optimized patient portals. Secure portal access via mobile devices is bringing healthcare the on-the-go convenience that smartphones provide in other areas of life. 

While secure messaging – between staff and with patients – remains the primary use of mobile devices in healthcare, providers are calling for more. According to a recent HIMSS survey of healthcare professionals, 77 percent of respondents say they want their clinical communications solutions to integrate with workflow management and documentation.

3) Mobile EHR applications

Mobile apps that connect providers to EHRs have grown in popularity as a way to enhance clinical documentation and optimize EMR workflow. Time-saving functions include mobile dictation, photo capture, and secure access to patient charts via smartphones and tablets.

An example is Mobius Clinic, the HIPAA-compliant “remote control for your EMR.” Mobius streamlines clinical documentation and optimizes EMR workflow using medical-grade smartphone dictation, instant image capture, automated vitals collection, and much more. The result is reduced liability, higher insurance approval rates, and smoother interactions between providers and patients.

Clinicians are seeing similar benefits from a growing list of apps that facilitate EHR use from mobile devices. But with over 300,000 mHealth apps on the market, regulation is a major challenge. An emerging solution is Xcertia, an initiative developing guidelines for clinicians to judge mHealth apps based on content, privacy, operability, and security.

Challenges

While many providers have embraced the benefits of mHealth, others remain resistant. A 2018 AMA survey found that four key concerns hold physicians back from embracing mobile: “Does it work? Will I get paid? Will I get sued? Does it work in my practice?”

While Xcertia’s app guidelines will help address these concerns, there’s a need for additional resources and training of providers. In the meantime, physicians can consider what mobile device apps and strategies are working for their colleagues in healthcare.

Provider Profiles: Mark Casillas, M.D.