TORONTO – With sales of mobile devices now outstripping sales of desktop computers, some observers say we’re now in the post-PC era. Healthcare providers are part of the trend, with physicians, nurses and others opting for smartphones, tablets and scores of apps. In a new White Paper called ‘Mobile Computing in Clinical Settings,’ Canada Health Infoway recently analyzed the economic effect of such devices on healthcare delivery and pointed out several challenges.
The growth in mHealth does introduce important challenges that healthcare delivery organizations will need to consider, such as:
• How will their clinicians sort through the tens of thousands of available mHealth apps to find the most appropriate solution for their professional needs?
• How will clinicians respond to questions from their patients about the appropriateness of certain health apps?
• When and how will clinicians validate the quality of health apps’ interoperability, privacy, security and content features?
The small form factor of smartphones and tablets is a key driver for their use in health care. However, it makes these devices strong candidates for misplacement, loss or theft. The primary concern with mobile device loss or theft is the access to confidential information either stored on the device or accessed by the device. The new challenge introduced by mobile devices relates to authentication of individuals accessing personal health information wherever it is located.
As with the use of other devices, there are also infection prevention and control risks to be aware of with the use of mobile devices in health care settings. Smartphones and tablets are at risk of becoming carriers for the transmission of microorganisms as they travel with clinicians into virtually every environment and from patient to patient. The challenge will be to raise awareness among clinicians about the infection control risk and to guide their behaviour with respect to infection prevention and control through education, training, and policy tools.
Clinicians and healthcare employees are behaving like consumers by wanting to exercise choice over mobile device and app selection. In response, some organizations are adopting management and ownership models such as “bring your own device” (BYOD).
In such cases, new tools, architectures and policies are needed to govern and control these endpoint devices. Health delivery organizations run the risk of not planning and managing their mHealth initiatives in a strategic or proactive approach.
Many mobile expansions can be fragmented with overlapping approaches to planning, procurement, governing policy, application design and end user support. Infoway recommends that HDOs think through their mobile computing strategy in context with their other digital health investments, such as hospital information systems (HIS), electronic medical records (EMRs), EHRs and health analytics.