Mobile Devices: Changing Healthcare Forever

Mobile Devices: Changing Healthcare Forever

By: Shelly Kramer
June 18, 2012

How mobile devices are changing healthcareMobile devices are shaping the healthcare landscape and impacting the way doctors work. Just as consumers are increasingly turning to mobile devices to manage email, for content consumption and using apps to simplify their lives, doctors are also incorporating tablets and mobile apps into their practices. And slowly but surely, doctors are becoming savvy with technology and social media and integrating the use of them into their practices as well.

Use of Tablets by Physicians Doubled in Last Year

According to the “Taking the Pulse” study conducted by Manhattan Research, the use of tablets by physicians has nearly doubled in the past year. The annual study focuses on how doctors use the Web and other forms of technology in the workplace, providing statistical benchmarks that are indicative of larger trends. And as more doctors incorporate technology to aid in patient care and the integration of EMRs and EHRs becomes standard, mobile device use will likely continue to rise. An interesting tidbit—81% of doctors surveyed who use a tablet for professional practice use iPads. Actually, that’s not surprising at all and fits in with other data about Apple’s iPad dominating the user marketplace. At least today—who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Mobile Devices and Social Media Mean Convenience – And Better Care

Mobile devices and social media mean convenience. They allow doctors to cut down on the time they spend on paperwork and integrating technology into the workflow is good for practices—and it’s good for patients. Tablets also allow doctors to quickly dive into researching symptoms, keeping up-to-date on medical news, accessing drug reference databases, finding information about clinicial trials, etc., and many even write prescriptions straight from their tablets—I know my doctor does!

And integrating social media and technology into every day life can often mean doctors deliver better, more personalized care. Take Natasha Burgert, for instance—a Kansas City-based pediatrician who’s been the focus of much attention lately (and deservedly so) as a trail-blazer in the tech savvy realm. She blogs about child rearing, is active on Facebook and Twitter and answers patients’ questions by text and email. “These tools are embedded in my work day,” says Burgert. She continues with, “this is something I do in between checkups. It’s much easier for me to shoot you an email and show you a blog post than it is to phone you back. That’s what old-school physicians are going to be doing, spending an hour at the end of the day returning patients’ phone calls.”

Mobile Apps and Empowered Patients

Mobile apps are also bombarding the healthcare consumer marketplace as empowered patients begin to stand up and take control of their healthcare. Ranging from personal health records that enable patients to control their own data and access their healthcare records and lab results (like our client, PocketHealth’s mPHR), to apps that facilitate payment processing and insurance coverage eligibility and devices that help monitor disease specific treatment regimens and/or health and wellness monitoring, healthcare apps and related technology will only continue to grow as more patients incorporate these tools into their healthcare regimens.

Better Technology. Can It Lead to Better Health?

An example of how tech can lead to better health is easy. Limiting ourselves to one is the tough part. Happtique is doing some pretty amazing work in the healthcare space, one example of which is recruiting doctors who treat heart disease, diabetes, and musculoskeletal conditions, as well as physical therapists and trainers to test the technology with health and fitness apps. After the users are trained, Happtique will then track both the prescribing processes and the patient downloads during the test period. This kind of mobile prescribing and tracking of user interaction within the app can quite possibly change everything when it comes to healthcare. Steven Magid, M.D., of New York-based Hospital for Special Surgery, says “Mobile app prescribing will add an entirely new dimension to my ability to care for patients and … ultimately improve patients’ health.” Imagine that. Patients getting better care and better health.

What’s Next?

As noted above, this infusion of technology has already made a big impact in the efficiency of healthcare providers and it’s only going to get better from here. Sure, there are hurdles. Slow adoption rates, privacy issues and the like. And those aren’t small issues. But we predict that won’t change things much. We’ll likely see the integration of tablets into almost the entire physician market—as well as the adoption of other forms of technology and the integration of social media channels into practices and care. It’ll be slow. And there will be much training needed, but that’s not different than what’s happening in any industry, anywhere—technology truly is changing everything.

How do you feel about doctors using mobile devices in the workplace? What about social media? Do you see these as leading to more convenience and potentially better care for you in the future? I do, but then I’m comfortable with technology and see the possibilities. And I’d love to hear what you think.

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  • Great to see you cover this topic Shelly, as it is very hot right now. The only thing I worry about with the flurry of doctors and healthcare in general moving to the use of tablets, apps and other electronic devices is the security of the data. One of the verticals I cover is data security and I have already heard of data safety sloppiness stories through unsecured networks, leaving devices on and out in the open with personal information and database breaches causing exposure and subsequent theft of very sensitive information by hackers.

    Hurray for the move to the digital world for the trend turtle known as healthcare in this country but take extreme caution to protect data and secure your devices. It often goes as an afterthought and it should be a priority.

  • They are absolutely, positively an awesome thing to have in healthcare! I am sure they have changed the world of EMRs already, and will only make that world easier. As for patient care and ease of use: no more rolling a cart down the hallway? No more cumbersome computers being moved from room to room? Yes, please.

    Now, social media-wise, I’m not sure that I would want a doc tweeting my surgery, etc., but isn’t there a code of ethics that would stop this anyway? To pass on new information, trends in healthcare, etc., sure! Most of my doc friends, of the ones who choose to use any social media, usually keep it very private and don’t post much for fear of liability, which is sad.

  • All the doctors I am friend with seem to love their iPads, both personally and professionally. I am sure it cuts down on their paperwork. I know healers who were using laptops in that way 6 or 7 years ago. Healers tend to be early adopters and innovators by nature.

    My chiropractor answers questions and sets up appointments by email and text from her iPhone and uses an iPad in the office. All the local physicians walk around their office with a laptop.
    I am a healer, not a doctor, but my clients sometimes need me urgently. I initially checked emails from my smartphone then started answering them from the phone. Increasingly my clients text me with questions and to set up appointments. Some clients only communicate with me through FaceBook. I wonder if that could happen with doctors as well in the future?

    I agree with John that my main concern, as with every new technology, would be to make sure that sensitive data remains secure.

  • Ken Manchester

    With respect to John’s concerns for security, a company I represent now has the ability to encrypt a patient’s entire medical history into 2D barcode on a medical ID card without the need to transfer files from place to place where hackers can access the information. There is no database to breach/hack, and in the event that the card was lost or stolen and the information accessed, there would automatically be a log file entry identifying the device and geolocation of the offending party, and an alarm sent out.

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  • Anonymous

    That’s really interesting Ken. I’d love to know more about that company. We have a client that has developed a pretty amazing mobile personal health record, so we’re always interested in technology that makes record control/management easier. Send me an email and give me the scoop about your client when you can – would love to know more!

    You can do it through the contact form here.

    Thanks for coming by!


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