Mobile devices: modernising and improving quality of health care
No other technology has advanced human lives like mobile devices have over the last few decades, whether it is connecting us with friends and family via the internet, making cross-continent, face-to-face meetings a reality, or having an entire library of information at your fingertips.
These technologies have expanded the reach and speed of communications while giving us 24/7 access to a wealth of content so everyone around the world can communicate, collaborate and make better, faster decisions.
This is especially true in health care, where mobile devices can help improve patients’ health, safety and overall care in several different ways.
While the usage of mobile technology in health care is still relatively new, it is growing rapidly. According to Zebra’s 2022 Hospital Vision Study, over 95% of physicians and bedside nurses are expected to use mobile devices in some capacity by 2022. That does not even account for other medical practitioners such as radiologists, phlebotomists, paramedics and other care team members who will be fully ‘mobilised’.
Healthcare professionals are already familiar with mobile device workplace applications and are widely using the technology in their day-to-day operations. In hospitals, doctors and nurses scan patients’ wristbands to confirm their identity prior to lab work, medication administration and other actions. This allows staff to retrieve or update each patient’s electronic medical record (EMR) at the bedside in real time. Mobile devices are also used to communicate and consult with other care team members — including those in other facilities — to ensure continuity of care. Submitting lab and pharmacy orders on the spot is another key benefit, which then enables synchronisation with Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are used to monitor patients’ health.
Mobility is primarily used to help improve patients’ quality of care. However, this is precisely why commercial smartphones and tablets we use every day should not be used by healthcare providers. Our everyday mobile devices were not designed for use in health care. Therefore, using them in hospitals, doctors’ offices and even long-term care facilities can introduce unnecessary risks that may jeopardise patient safety.
A 2009 study found 94.5% of intensive care unit (ICU) workers carried mobile phones that contained bacterial growth (which could cause nosocomial infections). That is why any mobile device used in healthcare environments must be disinfected frequently with cleaning solutions that are far more potent than disinfecting wipes meant for home usage. Therein lies the problem with the consumer-grade devices we use daily, which take a long time to disinfect and have a lower tolerance to constant contact with healthcare-grade sanitising agents without corroding or degrading the plastic housing or causing some other damage.
Commercial-grade devices also raise significant data security issues, as all Australian healthcare providers are obligated to abide by the strict security rules defined within the ANZ Privacy Act 1988.1 Data security is complex, and it can be easier for bad actors to breach sensitive patient data if the devices used by clinicians do not have the right tools available to manage device security settings.
Companies that produce medical-grade mobile devices are helping to modernise the healthcare delivery system, creating high-efficiency workflows that minimise errors, reduce costs and improve patient care. Healthcare organisations are also expanding partnerships between nurse managers and IT executives within their systems to overcome the potential obstacles of patient privacy concerns and lack of adequate IT and health information systems to attain organisational approval of clinical mobility implementation.
Ultimately, by determining and planning accordingly around healthcare mobile device use cases, employee engagement and communications channels, healthcare leaders can arm clinicians with the technology they need to ensure that the right patient receives the right care at the right time.
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