Trey Lauderdale, Founder & President of Voalte outlines three proven steps critical to a successful mobile health strategy for healthcare providers.
As we become increasingly dependent on smartphones in our professional and personal lives, all types of businesses are discovering innovative ways to use smartphones to simplify communications, improve efficiency and increase profits. It makes sense that hospitals are getting in on the trend.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as arming your caregivers with smartphones and sending them out on the hospital floor. Like most new technologies that offer potentially huge benefits, smartphones require you to have a solid plan in place for a smooth transition. Here are three steps we’ve found to be crucial to a successful smartphone strategy:
1. Prepare your infrastructure and train your staff.
Start with a thorough site assessment to determine whether your hospital’s physical and digital landscape can handle your new mobile device traffic. Be sure to involve all stakeholders at this stage so every group can express their concerns and expectations.
Also consider data, text and voice transmission on your Wi-Fi network. For the most cost-effective results, extensibility is key: You need to be able to adapt rapidly, with a platform that changes and grows without becoming obsolete. That means you need a partner to work with your clinical and IT teams to facilitate the technical implementation of data and voice servers. You also need to consider critical integrations with alarm management middleware.
One leading pediatric hospital in Texas kicked off its smartphone strategy with a thorough evaluation of the existing wireless network. When we discovered the system was not optimized for voice calls, we were able to solve the problem early before getting too far into the implementation.
Once the system is functioning, you still need strong customer service support for your IT team. For your caregivers, you’ll need ongoing training and support, including access to a support team that can answer questions quickly.
2. Plan for charging, carrying and maintaining your smartphones.
Smartphones don’t add value if you can’t keep them up and running. Battery cases are essential for protection and keeping caregivers connected through a long shift. Add a screen shield to protect against accidental splatters, and a smartphone becomes a rugged, clinical-grade device. For ease of use and comfort, a custom holster can make all the difference for nurses on the go.
Some other considerations involve how to assign smartphones. Will they be shared devices or one-to-one? How will you charge and store them securely when they are not in use?
We’ve found that a shared device model not only saves on the number of smartphones you need to buy, but also gives you complete control of the applications on each device, and the ability to manage how the phones run on your secure VoIP Wi-Fi network.
One of the country’s top hospitals has had great success using a shared iPhone® plan. A check-in/check-out system requires nurses to sign out iPhones at the beginning of a shift and sign them back in before going home, which decreases the number of lost devices significantly.
As with any change in workflow, you will need to update your policies and procedures to address a range of concerns. Important protocols range from how to replace external batteries to the proper etiquette for nurse-physician communication.
3. Manage and update your smartphones.
Mobile device management (MDM) is a hot topic, and with good reason. Once your caregivers are using smartphones, you need the ability to download applications, update operating systems and make repairs when needed. As part of your broader security initiative, consider MDM solutions such as password protection, lockout protocols and provision access.
Of course, most important is ensuring that your MDM functions are transparent to caregivers and don’t impede their workflow. The pediatric hospital in Texas is successfully managing iPhones at multiple locations, using MDM functions to change Wi-Fi settings remotely, upgrade software and restrict access to unapproved apps. They also use web clips (shortcuts to web pages that are added to the home screen) to share information with their caregivers quickly and easily, without enabling the iPhones to browse the Internet. Beyond managing current applications, they are also finding new uses to fully optimize their smartphones for a range of functions.
Smartphones hold great potential to simplify the way caregivers communicate, collaborate and gather information. Take the proper steps before jumping in, and you’re more likely to make a smooth transition.
About the Author
Trey Lauderdale is Founder and President of Voalte, a leading mHealth technology company that provides a fully integrated and dependable clinical communication system that healthcare professionals want, enjoy and effectively use. More than 8,000 Voalte iPhones are currently in use at 29 hospitals throughout the United States.