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Are Health Systems Getting The Most Out of Their mHealth Platforms?

This March 5, 2018 mHealth platforms article was originally published in

A mobile communications study released in advance of HIMSS18 finds that hospitals and health systems aren’t yet adapting their mHealth platforms for care management and coordination.

A new mHealth platforms survey finds that healthcare providers are using their smartphones for communication – but not for the growing variety of mHealth capabilities that these devices now feature.

The study, developed by HIMSS Analytics and PatientSafe Solutions and released ahead of this week’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference and exposition in Las Vegas, blames the disconnect on a lack of integration. Either the devices themselves can’t mesh with mobile health platforms, or the platforms aren’t fitting into provider workflows.

“(I)t looks like the primary use of mobile clinical communications solutions today is texting and other forms of communications, versus leveraging ‘smart’ capabilities – like easier access to patient data, that are available today,” Joyce Sensmeier, MS, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN, Vice President of Informatics for HIMSS North America, said in a press release. “To me, clinicians are still reliant on mobile devices for general communications, as opposed to a detailed clinical care focus, which makes sense given we’re still early in the evolution of smartphone use in healthcare settings.”

According to the survey of some 302 healthcare providers, conducted last November, more than three-quarters said the primary use of their clinical communication platform is for HIPAA-compliant secure messaging. Slightly less than half chose either consolidation of voice and secure messaging services or delivery of critical results and alerts.

Farther down the spectrum, however, were mobile access to patient data, at 30 percent, mobile clinical workflow management and documentation (23 percent), communication with patients and their families (12 percent) and assignment management (7 percent).

When asked what was most important in selecting a clinical communications solution, respondents cited improving patient safety (51 percent), faster response time between care team members (46 percent) and faster response time to patients (42 percent).

“Responding to nursing calls and telemetry alarms accounts for a large part of a clinicians’ workday,” Steve Baum, PatientSafe’s Vice President of Products, said in the report. “Alert, nurse call and alarm integration is key. Other information – such as falls risk, sepsis alerts and critical results – improve efficiency and patient safety. If a nurse knows a patient is at a high risk of falls, when he gets an alert that a patient needs to use the bathroom, he can quickly respond. That reduces that risk significantly.”

The mHealth platforms challenge, HIMSS and PatientSafe executives say, lies in moving from first-generation mobile devices to more expansive solutions that offer uses beyond communication. While providers are ready for them, their existing IT infrastructures and workflows aren’t.

“As the survey data shows, if you look at all the different tasks a care team member needs to accomplish, there is considerable workflow fragmentation caused by the sheer number of devices and apps on those devices they still need to use,” Baum said in the report. “This has resulted in clinicians carrying so-called ‘fat tool belts.’ Still all too common are nurses who must carry one device for communications, another for, say, blood administration and a third for specimen collection.”

See the full article for more.

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