By Lauren Horwitz, Managing Editor, Cisco.com
Communication is the backbone of quality medical care, but aging systems and strict healthcare regulations like the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) can make new technology even more difficult to implement.
But today, mobile healthcare apps are ushering in change, and breaking down information silos. Mobile applications for healthcare enable doctors and nurses to communicate securely via text or phone about patients in accordance with HIPAA and to gain easy access to electronic health records—all while using familiar technology via smartphones.
Secure and compliant mobile healthcare apps signal a major stride for the industry. Previously, even if doctors and nurses wanted to communicate with smartphones about patient cases, HIPAA compliance made that impossible. As a result, communications were slow and fragmented.
“Slowness is the enemy of innovation,” said James Webb, vice president of professional services at Mobile Heartbeat, an application that enables clinicians to use a single system to communicate with one another about patient care.
The global mobile healthcare app market is valued at $28.32 billion in 2018 and expected to reach $102.35 billion by 2023, according to Research and Markets. A recent Jamf survey found that 47% of organizations plan to increase the number of mobile devices in their organizations over the next two years. And 96% of healthcare IT decision makers said that implementing a mobile device initiative boosted patient satisfaction.
“If you haven’t started thinking about policies to enable [mobile] experiences in your health system, you’re a bit behind the curve,” said Jason Holt, technical lead for Cisco collaboration, in a session on collaboration technologies in healthcare at Cisco Live 2018.
“Ninety-six percent of healthcare IT decision makers said that implementing a mobile device initiative produced a positive impact on patient satisfaction.”
Holt noted that healthcare organizations are clamoring for new technology, such as mobile apps, to improve communication and workflow. Holt noted that 80% of organizations today, and 98% in four years’ time, will employ mobile healthcare apps.
At the same time, healthcare organizations need to do so while being HIPAA-compliant and secure. In some cases, clinicians may introduce apps on their own, a practice known as shadow IT, bringing with them security vulnerabilities.
“There is a problem inherent with . . . shadow apps. They aren’t compliant,” Holt said.
Making healthcare mobile
A healthcare operator based in Nashville, Tenn., wanted to address communication gaps about patients while using HIPAA-compliant technology.
“[The clinical community] told us they needed a device to communicate about many different aspects of patient care — not just messaging,” said the hospital operator’s chief nursing informatics officer.
As a result, the hospital operator could adopt collaboration capabilities that made patient care more efficient, including easing communication between clinicians, accessing lab results, integrating with hospital nurse-call systems and more.
The healthcare organization operates 180 hospitals and serves 27 million patients a year, so it needed technology that could scale. It turned to the mobile healthcare application Mobile Heartbeat, which integrates closely with Cisco Unified Communications Manager, a unified communications application for video, phone calls and messaging, to bridge that divide. Currently, the healthcare provider has employed Mobile Heartbeat in 75 of its hospitals, with roughly 1,000 users on average at a facility.
One of the main features is dynamic number reassignment. This capability makes it easy for doctors and nurses to make calls to one another or other key numbers, such as the lab, without requiring them to commit phone numbers to memory.