Many of my fellow clinicians see the ongoing health IT movement as a hindrance to the quality of care they are able to provide their patients. When they hear all this talk about “automation,” “streamlining efficiency,” and “mobilizing data,” it can seem that technology is replacing the human side of compassionate patient care with an assembly line that churns out procedures. Some clinicians see mobile technologies pulling them away from the bedside and turning patients into data points. But, if a hospital takes the right approach to this process change, that’s simply not the case. In fact, clinicians should find the exact opposite to be true as these solutions fulfill the promise of becoming a true mobile assistant – always there to improve workflow anytime, anywhere.
The goal of mobile technologies, or any health IT initiative for that matter, shouldn’t be to automate and replace. Rather, technologies should enhance clinicians’ care processes, cutting down on distractions and improving patient care. Effective mobile tools should offer a contextually complete view of the patient and allow physicians to close the loop on a decision or transaction. Near-real time medical device data and EMR data relevant to a required decision must be available to clinicians, whether they are in the patient’s room or in a different facility. Then, physicians must be able to execute that decision within that same solution without the need for a phone call or subsequent log-in. This capability will improve a physician’s ability to provide quality care with:
- More patient interactions: In today’s healthcare environment, physicians are no longer practicing in a single location. Mobile capabilities actually increase the number of touch points physicians can make with patients by enabling them to interact when they are not able to be physically in the room.
- Better patient interactions: Efficiencies from mobile technologies free physicians to spend more quality time at the bedside. When physicians aren’t wasting time searching for and making sense of patient information, they can use this “found” time to talk even more with patients – offering the one-on-one interaction that is core to medicine.
- Better response times: Whether physicians are in the room, down the hall or down the street, alerting them to potential patient issues ensures that the right care can be administered quickly and efficiently. By the time the physician is at the bedside, he already has all the information he needs to move forward with care.
- Improved decision-making: By aggregating data from multiple sources, mobile technologies give physicians a complete picture of the patient so they can make the best care decisions for each patient. This near real-time access to patient information can reduce errors and improve outcomes.
Mobile technologies don’t just aggregate data and allow physicians to interact with patients through an iPhone screen; they empower physicians with the information they need to make the right decision for their patients no matter where they are. To achieve the benefits of mobile technology – which is ultimately to enhance, not replace, the human side of healthcare – hospitals and health systems need to partner with IT firms to educate physicians on how to best apply the tools to reduce distractions and improve patient care.