Mobile health devices can allow physicians to consult with pathologists in real time
Mobile-health technology (mHealth) is the hot ticket with physicians. The advent of mobile computing, smartphones, and iPad-types of devices are fueling a strong demand by physicians for mobile apps that can help them receive alerts, stay informed of patient progress, access lab test results, and contact patients.
This is a swift-moving trend and clinical laboratory managers will want to develop information technology (IT) strategies to serve this keen interest by physicians to use their mobile-health devices to order medical laboratory tests and receive laboratory test results.
For decades, hospital CIOs struggled just to get physicians to use computers to input patient notes and orders. Today, however, physicians want access to their hospital’s information systems and patient records as easily as they do their online bank accounts.
So, what has changed? Just about everything, according to newly-released studies. The entire healthcare continuum—from patients to providers to payers—now relies on the Internet and online health information sites, such as the Mayo Clinic and WebMD, to stay abreast of current medical knowledge.
This is a happy development for companies that offer mobile technology and applications. Until now, the mobile computing industry has fought an uphill battle to get physicians to adopt and use mobile devices in their medical practice.
Yesterday’s Trend is Today’s Market for Clinical Pathology Laboratories
Research company comScore provides market intelligence on the behavior of digital technology users across the globe. The organization has studied mHealth trends for some time. It reports the following changes in the mobile health marketplace:
- Two years ago there were 25.5 million smartphone users,
- Today, that number has risen to more than 69 million,
- Seven million smartphone owners use them to research healthcare information online monthly,
- More than 1 million smartphone owners use their devices for healthcare-related activities on a daily basis.
It’s physicians who are driving adoption of mHealth technology. Two things appear to be evolving simultaneously: 1) The number of physicians using mobile devices such as iPhones and smartphones in other parts of their lives has increased dramatically; and, 2) applications have improved so greatly, physicians now find them “cool” to use.
Not long ago, however, physicians were more likely to be overheard complaining about the “interference” the mandatory use of health IT posed to their productivity and care-giving. Today, however, physicians and surgeons are more likely to collaborate with their hospital’s IT staff to instill efficiency into hospital IT interfaces.
“There is an explosion of apps available to help docs, for all kinds of things,” said Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in a Modern Healthcare article. This ballooning market will likely expand as the federal government distributes the $27 billion it earmarked in funds to incentivize hospitals and physician’s practices to adopt healthcare IT.
The Growing mHealth Market
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PWC) Health Research Institute (HRI) provides research and intelligence on trends that affect the healthcare industry. HRI recently released a white paper titled “Healthcare unwired: New business models delivering care anywhere, leveraging its survey and other research.” In it, HRI analysts revealed that the clinicians surveyed see “data access and decision-making” provided by mHealth technology as the “greatest benefit” to the quality of the healthcare they provide.
PWC analysts found “three distinct business cases” for mobile-health applications:
- “As a lookup and communications tool for clinicians to improve workflow and decision-making,
- “As a consumer health support device, and
- “As a hybrid linking clinician and patient.”
Forty percent of the physicians who responded to the PWC survey stated that “they could eliminate between 11% and 30% of office visits by using mobile health devices and applications to e-mail, text or monitor patients.” This is a huge turnaround in thinking from just a few years ago when only a minute number of physicians used mobile technology in their daily activities.
Clearly, mHealth is the active game-changer in how providers want to use information technology. The message for pathologists and clinical laboratory managers is that their respective laboratory organizations will want to be in the forefront of delivering mobile health functions to their referring physicians.
If it turns out that adoption of mobile health devices is widespread, then one likely outcome is that physicians will be using their mobile devices to interact in real time with their medical laboratories. It will become common for doctors to use their mobile health devices to order laboratory tests in real time, to query and consult with pathologists when at the patient’s bedside, and to access medical laboratory test results at any time from any location.