It's been several years since mobile devices first became an important part of healthcare delivery. Doctors and nurses have been smart phone fans for quite some time, and many clinicians adopted the iPad and other tablets more or less from the moment they hit the market.
However, hospitals have done relatively little to integrate the use of these incredible devices into clinical workflow, or to make sure the way they were being used was appropriate. For example, for years hospitals seem to have more or less turned a blind eye to the high-volume HIPAA-violating texting that was going on underneath their noses. Until independent vendors like Tiger Text and qliqSoft pointed out the problem, it seemed to escape their notice.
Meanwhile, hospitals have done little to provide robust interfaces to EMR, making it quite difficult for doctors and nurses to ask is critical patient data when they're on the run. Some EMR vendors, such as Epic System, offer their own mobile clients, but the word of the street is that they aren't that usable or helpful. In most cases, clinicians are forced to use an EMR interface that is difficult to navigate and slow to use.
While healthcare organizations have certainly been working on providing better functionality, improving security and centrally managing mobile devices, neither they nor their vendors seem to be on top of the issues involved.
Enterprise vendors stepping up to the plate
But despite the struggles hospitals face, they may soon have new options for controlling their mobile fleet. While EMR vendors don't seem to be making much progress at connecting mobile devices with their systems, enterprise technology vendors are moving ahead aggressively connecting mobile devices with hospital IT.
In fact, to enterprise technology giants—Apple and IBM—announced this summer that they would be partnering to create a mobile-first platform, IBM Mobile First for iOS, which could knit mobile devices together with all the hospitals' data systems. The platform essentially puts the power of Watson analytics into a smart phone, then allows people to interact with it like Apple's Siri at the point of care.
According to Dan Pelino, general manager of IBM's global public-sector unit, the new platform will allow hospitals to decide which applications they run across the enterprise on all the mobile devices that are connected. As part of the deal, IBM will be selling Apple's combined hardware and software platform—for which IBM's big data analytics are a service.
And this is just the start of a fast-moving train. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, enterprise technology giants including Google, Microsoft and Samsung are making big mHealth plays, so much so that these giants, along with Apple and IBM, will pull billions of revenue dollars away from traditional healthcare organizations.
Large, complex enterprise mobile platforms like these will take months or even years to be fully rolled out, given the complexity of what they're trying to do. So in the meantime, clinicians will have to hope that EMR vendors and hospitals focus on making clinical applications usable via mobile. But it won't be long until enterprise platforms change mobile healthcare completely.
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