The Digital Health Upgrade: Mobile Devices
Healthcare’s perfect storm of competing interests siloes digital innovation. A quick walk around any hospital illustrates the issue. In the operating room, surgeons are leveraging robotics systems like the da Vinci to lower hospital stays, speed recovery and reduce the size of incisions required for some common surgical procedures. However, many of those same surgeons are still using pagers as primary communication devices. The juxtaposition is almost too much.
Until recently, healthcare organizations accepted this lack of integration and the archaic nature of certain technologies. The digital revolution is changing the paradigm, however. Almost 4 out of 5 physicians have purchased both a smartphone and a tablet, and they are using these devices to do everything from educate patients to quickly consult Google. The consumer availability of smart devices is driving demand for digital innovation, while digital health funding is seeing continued triple digit year-over-year growth. In this first edition of “The Digital Health Upgrade: Healthcare,” we’ll discuss how mobile devices are transforming the healthcare ecosystem.
Wearables: From Digital Dog Tags to Terminator Glasses
The first generation of wearables is built around data collection. Activity trackers such as the Fitbit, Jawbone or Misfit are the most common and do not generate what most people would consider clinical data. But recently, there’s been a push toward collecting data that can directly inform care. Point solutions like the ICEdot crash sensor have the potential to dramatically reduce expensive tests like MRIs, with time-of-incident crash impact detection. In a more extreme example, smart shirts that monitor vitals like blood pressure and heart rate are beginning to enter the market.
The next generation of wearable devices focuses largely on delivering a contextual digital experience to the user by drawing on various data sources. The recently released iWatch demonstrated that a single device can leverage integrated sensors and also be extended through various modes of connectivity. Unfortunately, the price point for wearables and their unproven value makes them a questionable consumer play. However, these devices are likely to have a strong enterprise presence and could be used as a “right patient, right drug” verification method, or even to unlock a door using Near Field Communication.
Smart glasses may elevate wearables to an even higher level. While the Glass Explorer program extended, we are still seeing plenty of enterprise applications. Interestingly, of the healthcare use cases cited by Microsoft for its forthcoming HoloLens, some of the most compelling are enterprise driven.
Smartphones: An Untapped Resource That Could Finally Connect a Centralized Health Ecosystem
The smartphone is the mobile device with the largest install base in healthcare. However, we see very little use of the amazing power offered by its hardware. Healthcare’s use of smartphones is insular and fails to take advantage of the connectivity that can unleash the device’s potential. Today, they are a collection of one-way informational apps and basic feature phones.
The main issues holding back the full use of smartphones are security concerns and the lack of a workflow-integrated user experience. Clinicians who are already stretched for time are not in the position to manage a host of logins, unstable programs and uncertain connectivity. That said, as integration and security issues are addressed, the smartphone could truly change how clinicians work by enabling multi-media communication, contextual clinical systems integration and connected devices integration.
Tablets: Healthcare’s Favorite Channel Seeking Value Through Enterprise App Integration
Computers have been used in hospitals for over 50 years, but because of their size and general lack of integration and portability, they have failed to seamlessly integrate with bedside care. Healthcare IT’s major innovation was putting a laptop on what looks like a teacart to create a WOW (workstation on wheels). The cumbersome carts make nurses look like street vendors hawking electronic documentation engines. Even as late as 2007, WOWs were being touted as a major innovation.
As we discussed before, clinicians have demonstrated their preference for using tablets. EMR vendors have responded with what one CIO described to me as “the saddest attempt at product innovation I’ve ever seen.” The app is often just a poorly reimagined version of their already poor desktop UI.
Some new entrants like NY-based CiperHealth are completely redefining bedside documentation with a mobile-focused platform and a patient-centered approach. At the same time, traditional vendors are pushing to stay relevant with mobile product extensions like Epic’s MyChart. It’s great to see that clinician demand is finally driving technology innovation at the bedside.
Healthcare computing systems were born long before mobile devices. Systems were designed for highly-trained employees with narrow scopes of work. Digital devices, combined with integrated platforms and a techno-creative workforce are disrupting healthcare. Who will create the new ecosystem that allows users to effectively interact with their preferred device?
That’s a question we should all be trying to answer.