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Why is mobility so important to healthcare organizations and what is mHealth?

Why is mobility so important to healthcare organizations and what is mHealth?

by MaaS360 staff | March 10, 2010

Fiberlink works with many organizations in healthcare: hospitals and healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology firms, life science organizations, and insurance companies. In our experience, mobility initiatives, and mobility management requirements, for these organizations are driven by the following factors:

Many Knowledge Workers

Healthcare is one of the leading “knowledge industries.” A high percentage of employees have advanced degrees and information-intensive jobs. These include physicians and researchers, technicians, nurses, therapists, and pharmacists, underwriters, actuaries, statisticians, and analysts, salespeople and consultants. The overall productivity of healthcare organizations depends on the ability of these employees to stay productive and in touch with key knowledge wherever they are, including at home and on the road.

Knowledge Worker Lifestyles

Many knowledge workers expect and demand flexible lifestyles, including the ability to work at home and at remote locations. No organization can retain these workers without providing tools for mobile work like laptops, netbooks and smart phones and 24/7 access to critical resources such as patient and care information and administrative applications.

Work in the Field

To the extent that healthcare work revolves around patients, it necessarily takes place in the field and on the move. In addition to having a high degree of more traditional road warriors and day extenders, healthcare organizations also have “corridor warriors” that are constantly on the move, even when inside the organization. Healthcare professionals need to collect and view data in patient rooms, hallways, remote offices, clinics and labs, and often even in homes and, most unfortunately, resort and holiday locations.

Urgent Nature

Healthcare is an urgent field. Routine patients are in a hurry to fit appointments into busy workdays. Salespeople need up to date information before appointments. Compliance managers need real-time data on the business and systems. And, obviously, caregivers need to always be in a position to provide timely care with up-to-date information. All this adds up to an industry that has many immediate needs that rely on the convenience of mobility.

Compliance, Security and Privacy Concerns

Healthcare is one of the most regulated sectors of the economy. Regulations like HIPAA require healthcare organizations to place stringent controls on access to protected health information. Many healthcare organizations also place tremendous value on protecting intellectual property, including clinical and laboratory research findings.

Unfortunately, compliance and security are particularly difficult challenges in a mobile environment. IT staffs need to go to extra lengths to protect both “data at rest” on potentially hundreds of mobile devices and “data in motion” between the mobile devices and the nearest wireless access points.

In addition, it can be particularly difficult to prove to auditors that mobile devices, scattered across many locations, do in fact comply with policies and regulations.

The mHealth Opportunity

Roughly defined, mHealth is the application of mobile devices, wireless networks, and applications in the delivery of healthcare to patients. It’s a relatively new field. But, its emergence shouldn’t be surprising based on healthcare’s highly mobile characteristics. Also, it shouldn’t be surprising given the proliferation of mobile technology over the last couple of years ranging from smartphones to netbooks to purpose-built wireless devices.

While it's still an emerging field, there is growing support not only for the impact that mHealth will have, but on the speed with which mHealth will be upon us. Experts are starting to predict that mHealth can have significant impact on the healthcare economy and reform. mHealth can extend the reach of healthcare, wellness, and critical information to people 24/7, versus once a year at the annual checkup. mHealth also has promise in helping developing countries leapfrog infrastructure issues and provide up-to-date, modern healthcare based on more readily available wireless infrastructure and devices. And, speaking of wireless, there are over 2000 medical related applications in the iTunes App Store.

To wrap for today, the characteristics of healthcare create a highly mobile industry. This in turn creates some unique requirements and challenges to the application of technology that must be considered in any HIT initiative. But more so, it has helped bring about mHealth in recent years, which has promise to play a significant role in reshaping the healthcare economy, improving patient wellness, and extending first class healthcare across the globe.

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