The growing need for mobile communication in healthcare
Introducing modern technology into healthcare management
There is a growing need for clinicians and healthcare managers to balance increasing demand from a longer-lived, tech-savvy population with the constraints of complex legacy systems and limited resources. What is more, failure to deal with this issue threatens outcomes for patients and healthcare staff alike. With mobile technology in healthcare, a host of new options become available and, as we will discover in this post, better communication in healthcare can be surprisingly simple to deliver.
Digital solutions are transforming outcomes in most sectors, but nowhere more than healthcare. From artificial intelligence (AI) that reads radiology images to personalised medicine, technology is rapidly improving health and the provision of healthcare. In the UK, the NHS has an IT strategy that specifies the need to embrace digital solutions with a view to making more choice and power available to clinicians and improving outcomes through apps, enhanced data sharing and better clinical communication solutions. In this post we’ll find out how clinicians and managers can benefit from using mobile devices to streamline workflows, reduce error and optimise outcomes – and how you can do the same.
If you would like to read more about effective healthcare mobility, we have worked with Zebra to publish 'A Five-Step Roadmap to Building Your Mobility Strategy'.
Many sectors have used mobile solutions to deal with problems around capacity and demand – and medicine and healthcare are, if anything, more amenable to this approach than most. The healthcare sector has much to gain from the greater accuracy and data-handling capacity that mobile digital technologies offer, which is crucial given that in medicine, human communication failures can cost lives and around 30% of all data stored today is healthcare data, and that volume is constantly growing.
However, the ethics, organisational expectations and complexity of health make it a special case, and all new initiatives must be carefully considered and integrated. But as long as care is taken (e.g.over the integration of mobile solutions with other infrastructure, and the security of data) there is much that hospital communication devices and digital healthcare solutions – using voice and/or imagery and/or data capabilities – can offer healthcare providers and those they serve.
Why are mobile clinical communication solutions important?
As we have seen, the volume of healthcare data is vast and growing; however, this data is no mere digital clutter. Large volumes of healthcare data are vital as ‘food’ for AI and machine learning to create ever-better technical solutions. For that to happen, healthcare data must be in digital formats and gathered over time.
More immediately, mobile clinical communications and solutions can improve outcomes by enhancing clinicians’ access to data at times of acute need. Mobile devices assist in breaking down barriers to communication in healthcare. And due to its sensitive nature, most medical information is strongly guarded: this is good in terms of data protection, but can be problematic in clinical contexts. For example, if clinicians have to find a fixed (and heavily protected) PC in order to access patient data, they may be forced to treat without this knowledge – which generates risk and potential liability.
Most concerningly, this problem is particularly likely to arise in acute, unplanned-for situations such as A&E, traffic accidents, unforeseen episodes in community care and so on. In these settings, the ability to access relevant data (is this patient diabetic? Are they allergic to penicillin?) can be life-saving, and mobile clinical communication solutions provide it.
Meanwhile other non-confidential but equally important medical information that clinicians frequently use, such as symptom information, prescribing information, drug interaction data and self-care information for patients is all online – so clinicians must be, too, regardless of location.
Mobility allows healthcare to reach more people
With thoughtfully-deployed mobility healthcare providers can make their provision more holistic and efficient, even in the face of budget constraints. For example, telemedicine is increasingly accepted and likely to have a long-term role. Greater clinical mobility also extends the number and range of locations in which care can be provided; this has the potential to transform engagement and compliance with healthcare, especially among groups that have traditionally been hard to reach.
Mobile clinical communications can also enhance facility administration, which means less stress for staff, better provision for patients, more time to focus on preventative measures, and better outcomes for all concerned. Direct benefits of integrating mobile communications into healthcare include more efficient data transfer (in forms that can range from a voice or video call to the transmission of X-rays or real-time bed occupation data); reduced error rates (shared digital data reduces the need for transcription and thus reduces human error); more streamlined and accurate record keeping, audit trails and accountability and more efficient triage, allocation and administrative processes due to better data flows.
The benefits of mobile communication in healthcare management
For healthcare managers, effective clinical communication and the thoughtful deployment of mobile solutions throughout the facility can generate gains through the efficient and cost-effective deployment of resources.
For example, modern supply chains are quickly becoming digital, and healthcare providers are big players in multiple supply chains, both as large-scale purchasers and as providers. Therefore, they stand to make substantial cost savings and efficiency gains (e.g. when ordering everything from clinical supplies to canteen food, cleaning services to maintenance) if they can effectively integrate into digital supply chains. However, to do this properly requires mobile digital communications.
Furthermore, there are many digital healthcare solutions and apps, both clinical and non-clinical/administrative, that healthcare providers can use if they create a secure mobile infrastructure. Some of these, such as accounting and tendering/procurement software, can yield substantial savings in cost and time.
Evidence supports mobile communication in healthcare
There is research evidence that mobile communications can improve outcomes for patients and providers IF those mobile solutions are properly integrated.
That means taking a planned and structured approach to implementation that has the support and participation of personnel throughout the organisation and integrates with other important functions and protocols.
In a nutshell, that means that healthcare providers need to (i) map existing communication methods (ii) identify key requirements for mobile comms (iii) pinpoint the apps and systems required to run crucial workflows (iv) determine how you’ll manage alarms and alerts and (v) plan your roll-out.
If you would like to read more about effective healthcare mobility, we have worked with Zebra to publish ‘A Five-Step Roadmap to Building Your Mobility Strategy’.
The need to integrate mobile communication in healthcare is becoming imperative: our world is increasingly digital, and healthcare must get on board with this, not only to meet social expectations and integrate with stakeholders but also because both medicine and healthcare have much to gain from better communications and digitalisation. Integrating mobility into healthcare provision is an entirely feasible – and vitally important – step forward.
How we can help
We partner with the leading healthcare technology solutions manufacturers, and can support your organisation to enhance its mobile communication capabilities. To find out more about how we can help and enquire, get in touch on our healthcare technology solutions page.