In the healthcare industry, clinical teams are embracing mobile technologies to stay connected and be efficient in their daily tasks. With faster communication and better collaboration, clinicians spend less time finding medical information, devices, and team members, which allows more time with their patients.
But according to industry experts, mobile technology is delivering much more than productivity gains.
“Care teams are using mobile technologies to collaborate in new ways and extend their reach,” says Kevin Dean, managing director of Health, Care, and Life Sciences for Cisco Consulting Services. “In the past, patients only had access to the clinicians and specialists in their vicinity. Many doctors were forced to be a jack of all trades, especially in rural areas. But with mobile technologies, patients and clinical teams have better access to one another, which creates opportunities to improve care and design new care models.”
A New Model
Healthcare has historically been a response-based industry, with the vast majority of patient care administered after something goes wrong. With the help of technology, clinical teams and their patients have an opportunity to be more proactive, working together to try to avoid—or at least delay—crises in chronic diseases and medical events.
“The healthcare industry is transitioning from reactive care to proactive prevention,” Dean says. “But that requires a different model. Information and communications must be smooth, and they must be shared among diverse teams more frequently.”
A more proactive model can deliver multiple benefits:
- Better quality of ongoing care with faster, safer interventions
- Healthier lives and fewer acute crises for patients
- Dramatically reduced costs for healthcare providers that are better able to manage demand
Synchronizing the communication between previously disconnected care teams is one way mobile technologies are transforming the healthcare industry. With more integrated care, patients can receive attention and advice before an acute event occurs.
“The patient’s journey is currently managed in silos. Information is collected at each stop, but not always shared,” Dean says. “Mobility helps different teams be more coordinated, with information and communication following the patient across professional specialties and provider organizations.”
This coordination isn’t just reserved for clinicians. Social workers and elderly care professionals also have an opportunity to partner with integrated care teams, bringing “hospital expertise” to patients’ homes and daily lives and helping avoid unnecessary admissions.
Care at a Distance
As independent care teams become more integrated and better coordinated, they can extend their capabilities and resources to new patients and to existing patients in new ways. Telehealth and telemedicine technologies, for example, are helping providers deliver care at a distance.
Telehealth allows clinicians to consult with patients who are not at the hospital or doctor’s office, which can save time and costs for both the provider and patient in managing their disease. Telemedicine helps two or more clinicians, such as an on-site generalist and remote specialist, work together in support of a patient.
“Both telehealth and telemedicine improve the patient’s access to the right information, the right care, and the best specialists,” says Dean. “This is especially significant for patients that need advice and decisions from professionals in different fields, organizations, or geographies.”
Mobile technologies are also enabling more dynamic care. With the “Internet of Everything” movement connecting any number of devices and sensors, providers will have a chance to collect and analyze large quantities of real-time health and operational data, and make informed decisions in seconds or minutes instead of days or weeks.
“Health decisions are often made after the fact,” Dean explains. “Flu epidemics, for example, are typically identified and acted upon after they’ve already infected a significant local or regional population. By tapping into high-velocity data streams, providers will be able to recognize events as they are happening—or in some cases, before they reach crisis point—and respond with much greater speed.”
- Beyond epidemics, dynamic care could help health providers better understand and improve their operational efficiency, patient support, and community impact.
- With faster, more proactive decisions and care, providers have an opportunity to minimize adverse events, circumstances, and costs.
Getting Patients Involved
Perhaps most importantly, mobile technologies are allowing patients to play a greater role in their own care. Smartphones and other mobile devices, in particular, are helping patients gather important personal health details—insulin levels or blood pressure, for example—and send them to their doctor. Doing so gives the care team more patient information more frequently, complementing or even circumventing hospital or office visits.
“Mobility is completely altering the patient-clinician relationship,” says Dean. “And we’re just scratching the surface of what can be done.”