Several factors have contributed to the popularity of mobile devices, including that they are affordable, easy to use, and can be easily carried between patient exams to access digitized patient information, which is increasingly being transferred from paper charts.
The report, Apps, Doctors, and Digital Devices, relied on research from several studies that investigated the use of smartphones, mobile computing devices such as Apple's iPhone and iPad, and a wide variety of software apps by physicians in different specialties.
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"The common thread is that physicians in all specialties--especially more recent graduates--are relying more and more on modern technology to advance their concern to provide medical care more efficiently, cost effectively, and 'creatively' through digital instruments that are readily available," Edward McEachern, Jackson & Coker's VP of marketing, told InformationWeek Healthcare. "What this indicates in terms of future trends is that mobile device manufacturers and companies that supply app solutions are well aware of the growing market in the healthcare field for their products and services."
The study specifically pointed to Bulletin Healthcare's research that found usage among specific specialties to be:
Emergency department physicians: 40%
Clinical pathologists: 16%
The report also noted that both Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market have medical sections devoted to health apps that prove useful for physicians and healthcare professionals. Health apps have played a pivotal role in changing the utility of mobile devices from smartphones or tablets to medical instruments that capture blood test results, medication information, glucose readings, medical images, and a whole host of other medical information that enables physicians and patients to better manage and monitor health information.
The report noted, however, that security is an increasing concern as more mobile devices contain private health information. The onus will be on physicians and healthcare providers to make sure that the way they protect and share information is in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.
"With physicians and healthcare professionals eager to integrate these digital tools into their workflows, hospital administrators and information technology professionals are scrambling to make sure that the devices can integrate in a manner consistent with the security protocols to which the hospitals and practices are beholden," the report stated.
To do this, some healthcare delivery organizations have established systems where sensitive data is removed from iPads and smartphones before clinicians take the devices away from the healthcare facility. The report cites another example where medical facilities are using software solutions that only allow the mobile device to access patient health data, not to store it. "As such, they are able to use these devices without risking HIPAA compliance," the report said.
Looking ahead, mobile devices will become more pervasive in medical settings, not only as a tool to access medical information, but also as a device that will be integrated with other clinical systems to help the physician perform their tasks.
The report offers an example of how a tablet will be integrated with other clinical systems during a patient visit, explaining that: "Over the course of the examination, networked medical tools automatically record the patient's vital signs; and at the end of the examination, the physician schedules a follow-up, schedules lab tests, enters billing codes, and prescribes medication for the patient ... all within minutes from the same tablet. Most of these things are already possible, but the future of medical apps and mobile devices will integrate all of these tasks seamlessly."