Today I had a very interesting conversation with a health IT exec (full disclosure: a client) about the future of mobile devices in hospitals. His perspective, which sounded dead-on to me, was that while mobility is great, making sure your mobile and point of care devices work together is even more important.
Let’s look at the patterns emerging in clinical data access. Here’s some big pieces to consider:
* EMR: First, of course, the EMR. You’ve spent hundreds of thousands, or in some cases millions, to put your EMR in place (and in most if not cases, you’ll be spending big dollars on integration too). But having done that, you’re still not home. These days, you have to look at how doctors and nurses will access EMR data on the fly as well as in the office. In other words, mobility is a must-have, not nice to have.
* Tablets: Clinicians are very excited about using tablets, especially the glamourous iPad. But sometimes, reality intervenes. In some cases, clinicians are satisfied with using them — take fellow contributor Dr. Michael West — even if their EMR might not have a native client available for the platform. But many other physicians and nurses have found them exasperating or even unusable given the volumes of data they’re managing.
* Smartphones: Obviously, it’s great to let doctors access EMR data wherever they are, and in some cases, that works fine. Smartphones are already in wide use by doctors, 70 to 85 percent of whom have one, according to various sources. Not only that, they’re light and portable. But given their small screens, smartphones aren’t the ideal vehicle with which to access detailed clinical data.
*Point of care devices: The old faithful of portable data, point of care devices on carts were there long before newfangled smartphones and tablets made the scene. You may have more confidence you can manage them, and depending on the specifics, you may save money on the front end. (Integration and support are a separate issue.) The question is, are they going to meet the needs of doctors who don’t spend a lot of time on the hospital floor?
I’ve outlined these options as though they’re mutually exclusive, but the truth is, they’re all likely to pop up in your hospital, and more. Doctors and nurses carry smartphones and iPads of their own, you probably have COWs in place already, execs and clinicians tote laptops around and you probably have some wall-mounted computers or displays in place too. In other words, your real choice isn’t whether you mix and match mobile and point of care device, it’s how you manage them as a group.
Integrating this mix of device is a big technical challenge, a support headache, a security problem, and probably a Meaningful Use issue too. But you’re stuck with it. Now, how are you going to handle it?