HIMSS Survey: Future Belongs To Mobile Technology

Most healthcare IT managers believe mobile technology will have big impact on patient care, according to the latest Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society survey.

Michelle McNickle, Associate Editor of InformationWeek Healthcare

December 13, 2012

4 Min Read

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Nearly half of the health IT professionals queried in HIMSS' second annual Mobile Technology Survey believe mobile technology will "substantially impact healthcare delivery" in the years ahead, while 16% of respondents said mobile technology will dramatically change the future of healthcare delivery, according to the survey. HIMSS looked to IT professionals from major U.S. hospitals and had approximately 180 participants who answered questions regarding mobile use in their organizations.

"This year, we wanted to understand how mobile devices and technology will really impact healthcare in the future," said Jennifer Horowitz, senior director of HIMSS Analytics, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. "… mobile technology brings a lot of different things into healthcare that we never would have thought of a few years ago."

One of the most notable survey findings was the development of mobile policies within organizations, Horowitz said. According to last year's survey, 30% of respondents had a mobile policy in place. This year, 68% have developed one, which, Horowitz said, is mostly due to federal mandates.

[ For another point of view on PHRs, see Why Personal Health Records Have Flopped. ]

"We found 46% indicated they're taking federal policy into consideration," she said. About 13% of respondents who don't have a mobile policy in place, she added, said federal mandates are forcing their organization to consider a policy for the first time. "We asked in what area is federal policy having an impact on a scale of one to five, and HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] was the main one, with an average score of about five," she said.

HIMSS also asked about policy specifics. "We wanted to understand how encompassing the policy was, so we broke it up across two questions," said Horowitz. The first question asked what specific devices organizations are covering in their policies, "like lap tops, smartphones, etc.," Horowitz said. According to the report, respondents cited mainly laptop computers to be covered under their policies, followed by computers or workstations on wheels, tablet computers, and then smartphones.

The second question aimed to explore the issues organizations are facing with their mobile policies, with the most prominent being security.

Less than half of respondents viewed privacy and security as a major concern, which is a slight decrease from last year, said Horowitz. However, 83% of respondents said the mobile devices that clinicians are using only access data and don't store it -- only 14% said devices actually retain information, which is a significant decrease from last year's 28% of respondents who said their devices stored data.

The survey also took a closer look at how clinicians are using mobile. Of those surveyed, 90% said mobile is used by workers to facilitate their day-to-day job responsibilities; 93% of those respondents said physicians were using these devices. And "... we found 88% said physicians are using mobile technology to facilitate some sort of patient care," Horowitz added. "In that context, we also wanted to understand how clinicians were using apps to provide care."

Physicians use apps in two main areas: To view patient information, such as lab results, and to look up medical information, such as guidelines or other non-personal health related information. When it came to using mobile apps to interact with patients, the survey found only 13% of respondents said that their organization had developed an app for patient/consumer use. When it came to patients, apps were mainly being used to do things such as remote monitoring for blood pressure, Horowitz said. "We did find an increase [since last year] with regard to that, from 32% to 36%, so it does suggest a movement in that direction," she said.

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About the Author(s)

Michelle McNickle

Associate Editor of InformationWeek Healthcare

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