Mobile Devices: Changing Healthcare Forever

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Mobile 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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