Another successful HIMSS Conference & Exhibition has come and gone. The annual conference brought together more than 38,000 healthcare professionals, clinicians, executives and vendors from around the world to improve health through information technology. The venerable conference did not disappoint (and neither did the balmy weather).
Several folks from Anthro attended the conference last week. Here’s what they learned:
It seems that smartphones--not tablets—are currently the mobile device used most often in healthcare, particularly with nurse communication and data entry. The small devices are replacing a tool belt of gadgets that nurses would typically carry around with them, or rely on a cart to house. These smartphones are enclosed in medical-grade cases (think Motorola, Code, Infinite Peripherals, Honeywell) with swappable batteries, barcode scanning, RFID, and more.
Nurses are favoring smartphones over tablets because they want true mobility, which requires the option to go hands-free (i.e. a device that can fit in their pocket). Nurses are using the phone for quick intervals--- to enter data into their EMR system, administer medication, cross-reference medication dosages, or instant message colleagues—and then putting it back in their pocket when they need to go somewhere else.
For tasks not done on a smartphone, most healthcare providers still prefer to work at a laptop with a large screen and a full keyboard. Many people find typing on a tablet cumbersome, and it can be inconvenient to carry around (it doesn’t fit easily into a pocket). Others favor laptops so that they can see what’s on the screen easier.
During the show, our Marketing Product Manager chatted with a professor at Penn State who consults with hospitals and doctor’s offices about IT and workflow, and he said that he commonly encounters a “fear of change” on the part of IT professionals. Most of them are already comfortable with laptops, and thus, are resistant to switching over to something different like tablets or smartphones.
Tablets are being used in some very select areas, but decidedly not for EMR--- yet. Doctors are bringing their own tablets into work (which presents interesting challenges for security), but the majority of tablet use is with patients. Specifically, for check-in and discharge, surveys, education, and entertainment.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway our team had from its time at HIMSS is that mobile device use is more or less uncharted territory in the healthcare industry. There’s no clear path as to how they’re going to be used in the future, so everyone is trying everything. Smartphones may be the big thing with nurses right now, but that could shift at any moment. Tablet use may be primarily with patients now, but if EMR systems become more tablet-friendly, they could become much more popular with providers.
The healthcare industry is truly the Wild West when it comes to mobile device use. The best that those invested in the industry can do is keep an ear to the ground, and be ready for inevitable changes in direction.
Did you attend HIMSS14? What do you see as the future of mobile devices in healthcare?
For further reading, don’t miss 3 Ways to Successfully Implement EMR
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Maggie Summers writes about educational technology, healthcare IT, and healthy living for Anthro Corporation, a leading designer and manufacturer of furniture for technology in Portland, OR.