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Mobile Devices and Healthcare

Does your practice use mobile devices to manage the healthcare services you provide? Recent studies show that more doctors and their staff are turning to tablets and smartphones to help them provide care to their patients.  Mobile devices have shown they can improve practice efficiency and knowledge, allowing providers to make decisions quickly and with fewer errors. The benefits of having data at their fingertips allow many doctors to provide better care and better outcomes to patients. But providers aren’t the only ones turning to their mobile devices for health information; many patients are also using smartphones to confirm appointments, access electronic health records and research information discussed with their doctors.

The 2015 HIMSS Mobile Technology Survey found that 90 percent of doctors used a smartphone or tablet in their workplace, for a wide variety of reasons. Mobile devices can fast-track communications between healthcare providers, with some doctors using text or other methods to immediately consult with their colleagues about patient care. Even online forums and social networking applications, such as Doximity or Facebook, can be important resources for doctors seeking advice from other healthcare providers. However, not all social apps are HIPAA-compliant, so providers should keep that in mind when using these resources.

Accessing medical journals and databases can be another important resource for healthcare providers using mobile devices. Searching for specific information or keeping up with the latest studies is important when providing care to patients, and using a smartphone or tablet is an easy way for doctors or nurses to look up the information they need in real time. Drug reference applications are another popular resource, with doctors able to check online for names, dosages, indications and several other key items.

Mobile devices make it easier for doctors to completely and accurately document patient consultations, as well as communicate in a timely manner, reducing errors in medical coding and discrepancies in documentation. Patients can view their test results, visit summaries, and other personal information via apps used by most electronic health record systems. This quick and convenient access allows them to follow up with their providers to ask questions or discuss next steps right away. As innovation in this area continues, the quality of care has the potential to improve as well.

Because of HIPAA compliance and the danger of data breaches, many of the same practices used to keep data safe in the office should be applied to mobile devices wherever possible. In addition to security programs and regular updates, use whatever additional security is available with each device – passcodes, biometrics, and even the ability to remotely lock down and wipe the device should it be lost or stolen. The National Institute of Standards and Technology provides more information and recommendations in their handbook, Securing Electronic Records on Mobile Devices.

Mobile devices have been integrated so well into our lives that it makes sense for both providers and patients to employ them to give and gain the best possible care. Whether confirming appointments via text message, providing test results via a secure application, or even paying a bill using a smartphone, these devices help keep healthcare in step with the fast pace of daily life in the 21st century.