Three out of four Physicians Practice readers agree: mobile devices are a mainstay in today's medical practice.
No, this isn't some lame commercial pitch, but the reality of our readership's day-to-day operations based on the results of a new survey from Physicians Practice. In the 2018 Mobile Health Survey (187 total respondents), 75.9 percent say they use mobile health (mHealth) in their practice on a weekly basis.
As recently as two years ago, an AMA survey revealed doctors were excited about the prospect of using mHealth in daily practice, but a far smaller number were actually doing so. Make no mistake about it, restraint over using mHealth in day-to-day practice is still a prevalent feeling. The majority of practices using mHealth regularly are only doing so 0-5 hours per week, according to the 2018 Mobile Health Survey.
Yet, it's clear there has been a shift in the way physicians and practices view mHealth in the practice. Some of this is due to a shift in technological capabilities, with one reason being the EHR.
"[With my EHR platform], I can access pretty much all of my patients' information on a mobile phone or a tablet and it's quite convenient," says Joe Kvedar, MD, founder and vice president of Connected Health, an initiative from Partners HealthCare system in Boston.
Greg Kuhnen, senior director of research at The Advisory Board, a Washington D.C.-based consulting group, also emphasizes this convenience factor — in and out of the office. The mobile apps allow physicians to look up lab results, get context on a patient, and answer a question, all with a few swipes, he says. "It's definitely a lifestyle improvement," he says.
Dr. Kvedar mentions consumer expectations of mHealth usage have only gone up in recent years. "Some of the organizations we would have not thought of as competition, like CVS, Walgreens, or payers, Teladoc — who have created opportunities to interact with a clinician outside of traditional areas — have created a fear of missing out among [clinician organizations and administrators]...people are starting to adopt [mHealth technologies] more because they feel they'll be left out if they don't."
Uses of mHealth
The Physicians Practice 2018 Mobile Health Survey shows a variety of uses for mobile technology in the practice setting. The most common, according to nearly 70 percent of respondents using mHealth, is for communication between staff members. The second most common is using the mobile EHR application (51.1 percent of respondents), third is communication with providers (50 percent), and right behind that is education on clinical issues (46.6 percent of respondents). This jives with what Kuhnen has observed at Advisory Board.
"We see a couple of applications that we're expecting to be pretty ubiquitous quickly. We've seen pretty broad adoption. The first of those is unified communications…Skype-like systems that bring together calling, texting, paging, screen sharing, video chats…The reason they've been popular is because they improve productivity and cut down on communication errors," he says.
Communication is how ProHealth Care, a health system in the Waukesha, Wisc. area, uses mHealth. According to Bill Bailey, enterprise architect at ProHealth, the app his organization uses helps nurses on the care team communicate, through secure voice and texting capabilities. Bailey says the app has a robust directory, meaning nurses can not only communicate with each other and get on the same page, but also add members of the patient's care team who need to be contacted.