Editor’s Note: This post is sponsored by Samsung.
According to a report done by Frost & Sullivan, smartphones will continue to penetrate the home healthcare sector up to 95% by 2020. The consumer tablet market has been booming and with it being one of the fastest growing sectors in mobile computing (estimated to have 430 million in use by 2018), these devices have quickly found their way into the home healthcare industry. Why purchase multiple devices to do one task, when a smartphone or other mobile devices can be used as both handheld computers and phone communication devices?
They offer users easy portability, intuitive user experience and powerful information processing. But note that using them for healthcare solutions are only as good as the devices they are on. All mobile devices bring their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. Providers should carefully assess the pros and cons of them before using them in their practice.
Five Key Benefits
1. Affordable – Typical prices for any mobile device on the market ranges from $399 up to $550. Payment plans are normally offered, but beware that the price can increase or decrease depending upon the carrier, mobile or wi-fi plans, storage and accessories (think headsets, covers, keyboards, etc.).
2. Portable – Devices are able to fit in a multitude of places: pockets, purses, brief cases, lab coats, etc. Standard mobile devices weigh around a pound and are very thin in width. This type of build allows them to be carried in a multitude of places and used almost anywhere, unlike desktop computers or monitors.
3. Larger Displays – Screens can be read easily especially for patients with vision impairments. Mobile phone screens have increased in size to 5-6 inches. Tablets have 7-10 inch screens, and that allows for high-res medical images such as MRIs or cat scans to be seen properly on-the-go without sacrificing quality.
4. Location Awareness –A home healthcare aide can use mobile devices to get directions to and from appointments in addition to letting administrators monitor their location. This will allow for better time and patient management in the event of cancellations, emergencies or assignment changes based on location. For patients, it allows for 24/7 monitoring, expanding the limits of usual one-hour appointments since the wearable will be providing real-time, anytime metrics to the healthcare provider on an ongoing basis. If an emergency arises, the provider will know about it right away and be able to take action even when not in the home.
5. Broad Set of Medical Apps – Mobile workforce management apps are plentiful and more affordable these days since majority of them can be paid for on a monthly basis. Apps don’t have to be built from scratch and can be customized to provide healthcare providers with the exact data they want or need for both patients and administration. These apps can analyze various kinds of data and issue customized reports based on the user or practice.
Top Three Mobile Device Risks
o Easy to Misplace – Just as easily as these devices can travel effortlessly with a caregiver, they can be left behind because they are so much smaller than other equipment. This will ultimately cost more money to the provider to repurchase another fully equipped device and also puts private information at risk if it is unlocked.
o Many Need Recharging – Typical battery life on a mobile device is 10-12 hours. And for caregivers that handle 12-hour shifts, the life of the device may power down during shift or certain apps or functions on the device may not work since they may need to be fully charged to perform properly. Providers may need to include chargers as part of the equipment package for aides and the caregiver may need to keep multiple charges in different places in the event one is lost or forgotten in transit (having a charger in the car, home and briefcase, etc.)
o Data security – For mobile devices in healthcare, most of these are not optimized with proper data security and safekeeping, which leads to potential HIPAA violations. Establishing BYOD policies and procedures for them will be crucial to ensure patient safety.
Even though the provider will be equipping staff with the devices, essentially the clinicians will be responsible for the device personally and would need to be briefed on proper handling of personal data and information. Some best practices for providers include implementing user authentication controls, remote and automatic lock and wipe capabilities, encryption and establishing a thorough BYOD policy.
For patients using the devices, they need to be aware of what they are storing and keep it locked at all times. An essential dumping of data to a secure external hard drive may be a good safekeeping habit for extra protection. With the world becoming more and more mobile by the minute, it will undoubtedly impact the home healthcare front.
Being able to maximize use of these mobile and portable devices is critical to keep up with the ever-growing population that uses them and the healthcare providers that need to reach them. Remote patient monitoring can be convenient and provide a piece of mind to both the patient and their caregivers.
Providing necessary, real-time data and analytics in home healthcare can enhance patient care and increase employee productivity. Powerful software and technology is already being used for managing mobile workforce in other industries, and should be fully utilized in the healthcare industry as well.
The use of mobile devices will become a must-have in the rapidly growing field of home healthcare. Be sure that your practice weighs its pros and cons and creates a mobility action plan to be ready.