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by John Gresham
Published on November 29, 2017

Let’s face it: The advent of the smartphone has changed everything – from the way we do business to the way we communicate with one another. Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile phones and apps, easy access to information is now the law of the land: Consumers expect it and businesses require it.

For the most part, the health care industry has been slow to incorporate smartphone technology into its solutions. One of the main reasons for this is that the technology hasn't existed in a design that could be incorporated in an enterprise setting. Applications didn't support mobile devices in a way that could really bring all the benefits of the consumer smartphone experience to a health care system.

Today, we’re starting to see that change: Health IT providers are writing applications to support smartphone operating systems, and we’re increasingly seeing that infrastructure and application technology are more aligned than ever to enable a mobile experience.

This is an exciting period of transformation with a direct impact on more than a few sectors of the health care industry. Particularly, it offers huge potential for the nursing profession and care team coordination. There’s a lot to consider on the path to achieving patient-centered communication, including the critical need for the individualized care plan for the person to progress across their entire episode of care while consistently updating their longitudinal record.

Mobile technology and care team coordination

With advancements in smartphone technology, we’re in a great place to reduce clinician burden when it comes to delivering care – which ultimately means facilitating better coordination across the care team.

More health care organizations are moving to a care team-based delivery model. This means there is a pointed need for every member of the care team to stay current with a patient’s information.

Today, a care team has several different devices and technologies that members interact with as they care for patients: a pager for critical alerts, nurse call systems for alerts and interactions with the patient, a voice-over IP phone or other phone technology, a barcode scanner – the list goes on. All these devices are often referred to as “the nursing toolbelt.” And wouldn’t it be nice if that toolbelt was just a little lighter?

We’re enabling a reduction in the number of access points for the care team, and that's where mobile technology enters the picture. A mobile platform can facilitate clinical workflows, including robust barcode applications like meds administration, and support critical device and electronic health record secondary alerts. It may also run the other applications like image capture, positioning the care team to achieve a more efficient care process.

Key attributes of a mobile technology platform

Here are the top priorities for a sophisticated, holistic mobile health technology platform.

Communicating beyond the acute setting

For the effects of mobile technology to have a true and long-lasting impact on care team coordination, we must consider a communication system that can extend beyond the acute setting and reach affiliated and employed community-based providers. In other words, a mobile platform needs to be scalable to more than a single health care enterprise if it’s going to become an integrated tool for the care team. Often, that's referred to as being able to support a bring-your-own-device strategy, where clinicians have a personal device capable of communicating back into the enterprise for their patients in the hospital setting as well as across other community caregivers that are part of other affiliated or non-affiliated organizations.

This becomes especially important as the care team extends through the continuum of care. The best and most sophisticated mobile platforms will be the ones that can move beyond the single episode of care and support continuous management across the longitudinal care plan. For example, an engaged care team can better manage how a person with a chronic condition is progressing through their daily life.

Consider a person with complications from a chronic illness who is admitted to a hospital or needs to be transferred from one facility to another. That person’s care team needs to be securely notified through an interoperable transaction that a person they’re attributed to has had a change of health event. Through a helpful notification with proper patient context, clinicians can anticipate the next step.

Desktop messaging

All care team communications, including alerts and notifications, need to be embedded in the clinical experience – though the mobile platform and at the desktop. This thought goes beyond accessibility – it’s about outcomes. Clinicians should have the most up-to-date patient-centered information, regardless of device type. This means having the same capabilities on their mobile device on the desktop, as well as offering this type of experience for care team members who may not be allocated mobile technology.

Continuous availability

It seems obvious, but without continuous availability of the platform and reliability of those systems, care team communications fall apart. Clinicians depend on their devices to make decisions about their patients, so the technology must be highly reliable and virtually bulletproof.

Mobile technology at work in a clinical setting

What does all of this mean when it comes down to the clinical experience?

Let’s imagine this from a nurse’s perspective: If I’m a nurse, I’ll want to carry a single device – an enterprise-grade smartphone device that has barcode scanner capability, is lightweight and has a modern look and feel. This device is something that I want to engage with as part of my day, to look at that device and understand what tasks I have and what patients I'm caring for.

As I’m rounding and seeing my patients, I want to be able to perform medication administration straight from that device, or organize auto-pump programming from the mobile device to the medical device. I want to receive critical alerts so that if a patient I’m treating begins to degrade, I can move to that patient to provide them immediate care – and if I don’t engage with that alert, I want that device platform to intelligently know that I haven't acknowledged it, and have it go to the rest of the care team that is part of my secondary backup system.

If I need to engage with a cardiologist, I want to be able to identify who the on-call cardiologist is without having to guess or remember a phone number. I want the system to know who is on call based on the schedule, and I want the capability to call or securely text the cardiologist to ask a question or discuss that patient's care.

If I were a nurse, these wouldn’t be wish list items – these would be my expectations for a sophisticated mobile device and platform.

Benefits of mobile technology for patients and clinicians

There are considerable benefits to such a device and platform for both patients and clinicians. Ultimately, in improving and streamlining the clinical workflow, we’re liberating the care team from spending unnecessary time searching for patient information. We’re also providing them with better, more up-to-date information about the patient so they can make more informed decisions about care, which will positively impact patient outcomes. Additionally, with time freed up, clinicians can spend more time at the bedside with the patient, focusing on delivering care.

There are also substantial benefits for the larger health care system, which is focused on reducing length of stay and maximizing staff efficiencies to keep costs down. This ladders up to the broader goal of achieving the quadruple aim in health care: delivering improved and better high-quality health care at a lower cost.

Those goals are forcing us to think differently about how we can go deliver care in the most efficient and safest ways possible. In embracing innovative technology, we’re working to eliminate variances and waste and deliver frictionless care coordination.

CareAware Connect is a clinical mobility solution designed for a smartphone device to help improve efficiency by completing multiple workflows and coordinating communications using one device. CareAware Connect is a health care communication platform that allows care teams inside and outside the hospital to exchange information securely. This is accomplished through utilizing modern mobile workflows such as VoIP calling, secure text and alert notification, powered by an advanced user directory to drive more efficient communication workflows across the care team. Learn more here.

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