Mobile technology will be omnipresent in health care

white paper from The Beryl Institute reveals a 10% increase in general patient satisfaction and over 40% improvement in satisfaction with educational materials at hospitals when interactive technology is provided.

The publication examines six different hospital systems using the industry-standard Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey for evaluation. According to a press release on the study, the technology gave patients faster access to hospital staff and services by submitting feedback, making requests, and accessing health education information about the care they received and the steps they needed to take once discharged from the hospital. The patients used interactive in-room monitors to obtain information. The report goes on to say that the technology was helpful for staff  as well, allowing them to prioritize requests and collect real-time patient feedback and insights.

With the recent emphasis on health information technology improvements and the proliferation of electronic health records (EHR) under meaningful use, the medical system is undergoing a massive shift in technology. Even smaller medical practices are starting to implement EHRs and realize some of the potential benefits from that approach. However, nearly simultaneously as we have discussed before, many reports show that physicians remain hesitant on the actual positive elements of EHRs and their ability to help streamline care, enhance the patient experience, and improve outcomes. Additionally, independent reports point to little difference in outcomes when using EHRs. The lesson: not all technology can result in better care delivery.

We have discussed the potential of mobile health since its inception, pointing to the multiple advantages mobile technology offers in health care. Providing patients and physicians with relevant information when they need it is critical to taking the next step toward improving multiple facets of the delivery system. However, despite the deluge of apps out there available to these two groups of users, surprisingly few of them actually offer a meaningful approach to accomplishing these goals. Again, this fact points to the idea that the technology itself does not automatically translate into gains.

We believe that in the next 5-10 years mobile technology will be omnipresent in health care. It will drive both patient and physician behavior and be an essential component of the system. Apps will be sophisticated platforms that bridge communication and education and allow the system to expand beyond the walls of the clinic and hospital setting. They will also empower patients to take control of their health and provide physicians with the tools necessary to streamline their workflow while benefiting from obtaining information they need when they need it. Smartphones and tablets will also be able to link to wireless devices to collect information and to guide patient behavior.

Until all this occurs however, it is good to see small steps like this one that help elucidate the importance of providing patients with information when they need it and assist them in getting through a hospital experience. The importance of the real-time element should not be discounted, it is a critical component of health and its connection to longer-term health decisions should be maximized.

Douglas Elwood is Chief Strategy Officer, Zibbel, Inc., and blogs at Mobile Health 360.

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