Mobile Technology in a Healthcare Setting

Pulse of Your Practice

Healthcare professionals are increasingly using mobile devices to access and review patient records and test results, enter diagnoses, consult drug data, and synchronize information with their organizations’ centralized system, all without the need for wired network connections. “Using a BlackBerry or a palm computer, I can access the clinical portal and view patient information and laboratory results from anywhere in the world,” says Dr. David Cooke, a cardiologist and Vice President of Quality and Safety for Central DuPage Hospital (CDH) in Illinois. The wireless system at CDH is Web-enabled—the entire hospital is a “hot spot”—and patient information is protected though various levels of encryption.

“Our wireless system is very robust,” says Cooke. “I can access EKG tracings, archives, previous admission information, histories, physicals, emergency room reports and some outpatient information. I can also view X-ray reports, including an image of the X-ray; though this is not reliable by itself, it can be very helpful.”

Mobile and wireless technology helps Dr. Cooke with a variety of daily tasks. “After a patient is discharged,” he says, “our medical records department reviews everything and creates a deficiencies list that doctors have to complete. It used to be a real headache, but now I can resolve most of the items on the list quickly and easily, from anywhere in the world. I don’t know how we ever did without it!”

Dr. Cooke can also access many of the hospital’s tools such as the OR schedule and databases with information on prescribing medications and drug interactions. “One of our doctors had a long commute to the hospital,” recalls Cooke, “so he often rounded all his patients on his way to work from his PDA on the train. By the time he got here he was already ahead.”

There are many other uses of wireless technology that practices are beginning to utilize. Many healthcare professionals today use mobile phone text messaging to remind patients of appointments. Several companies offer a mobile text messaging service for healthcare professionals.

Recent heart surgery patients use GPS-enabled mobile phones that permit them to contact a medical expert if they believe they’re in immediate danger. These phones include sensors that measure heart rates and transmit data to a call center.

Many physicians currently use mobile devices to send prescriptions directly to the pharmacy, either from their office or hospital. These devices provide physicians with access to patient clinical information and data on medications they’re already taking and automatically highlight possible adverse drug interactions.

Wireless technology can also help patients suffering from single-side deafness by diverting sound from the patient’s deaf ear to their good ear via a microphone, speaker and wireless link. Text messaging is used to remind mentally ill patients to take medications and make their appointments; mobile phones also provide immediate contact with caseworkers in emergencies.

This is only a sampling of current and cutting-edge technology. A large proportion of these services will soon be delivered, via wireless networks, to smart phones or customized PDAs. No one product or service will define e-health. Instead there will be a highly integrated mesh of offerings either delivered to the patient directly or made available to the doctor to call upon as needed.

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