Mobile Technology Integration in Your Practice
D’Ann R. Meisenheimer
Smartphones and other mobile devices are becoming as prominent in health care settings as they are in other walks of life. That means physicians are now grappling with the benefits and implications.
The Electronic Age
So, what are physicians doing right now with mobile devices in their practices? Some 83% of them are using smartphones or tablets to perform tasks related to patient care. The most common activities are interfacing with electronic health records (EHR), entering medical notes, e-prescribing, searching for clinical information, accessing professional resources and communicating with colleagues.
Following are four ways to use this technology to improve a physician practice:
- Support Clinical Decision Making
Clinicians need to be able to access up-to-date clinical reference tools quickly and easily at the time they are delivering care to patients. For instance, by using the Epocrates® app, a physician can confirm his or her prescribing decisions, check for potential drug interactions, find treatment guidance such as symptom evaluation, differential diagnoses and therapy options, and get an overview of recommended lab tests. By using a tablet or smartphone to enter data or update patient charts, a physician is able to concentrate on the patient without worrying about making entries later to an EHR from a desktop computer.
- Enhance Practice Workflow
A unique advantage of mobile technology is that it allows the physician-user to choose where to perform certain tasks most productively, whether it is in or out of the office. When connected to the practice EHR, he or she can manage an e-mail inbox, document recent patient encounters, view schedules and appointments, review patient charts, prescribe medications, read test results and complete dictation. The interoperability with the practice’s EHR is an important point: According to the 2014 Epocrates Mobile Trends Report, only one-third of physicians report that their EHRs are optimized for interfacing with tablets or smartphones. An uncomplicated answer to the problem may be to deploy a cloud-based HIT (health information technology) system. On the administrative side, smartphones and other mobile devices can be effective in the payment collection process, allowing mobile charge capture during the patient’s office visit. This offers the dual benefits of increased receivables and reduced costs.
- Facilitate Collaboration With Care Teams
In coordinating care for a patient, teams must know in real-time when a patient event has occurred. Text messaging is a familiar and efficient means of communicating this information. But there is one caveat: There is a good chance that the messages will contain patient-protected health information (PHI). Aggressive steps must be taken to ensure the security and inviolability of that information, steps that go beyond training employees on what they can and cannot do. This will likely include a secure text messaging solution that complies with HIPAA and HITECH requirements.
- Promote Patient Engagement
Patients expect to interact with their doctors and other providers through mobile devices. Some 60% of U.S. adults own a smartphone and half of them use their phones to look up health or medical information. Furthermore, patient engagement is a stated goal of three major health care reform initiatives — Meaningful Use, Patient-Centered Medical Homes and Accountable Care Organizations. For example, Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use program requires providers to implement technology that allows patients to view online, download and transmit their health information. Providers also must have the capability to communicate with patients via secure electronic messaging. These functions usually are handled by patient portals that can be accessed through both mobile and stationary devices.
Since new apps are developed every day, this list is fluid. Listed below are a few suggestions to help physicians and patients bridge the gap with technology:
PingMD is a secure messaging app that allows you to communicate with your doctor the same way you communicate with friends and colleagues.
This app allows patients to find a doctor, read reviews and make appointments.
Patients can use this to feel more in control of their health care and can use this app for scheduling and payment.
Communicate with your doctor’s office and access up-to-date medical records. Patients can schedule appointments quickly and conveniently.
Advantages for Patients and Practices
Patients can benefit from the technologies described above. They can check test results, refill prescriptions, review their medical records, view health promotion materials and check-in for appointments. On the other hand, the practice may expect to see speedier administrative tasks such as registration, scheduling and patient reminders. The bottom line? Both patients and their physicians will benefit from a streamlined and stress-free process.
For more information on integrating technology into your health practice, contact D’Ann Meisenheimer at [email protected], or call her at 312.670.7444. Visit ORBA.com to learn more about our Health Care Group.