Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Mobile healthcare: Caregivers on the go!


By Dale Troppito and Dawna Paton

With the recent U.S. presidential platforms still fresh in our minds, you'll recall there was a consensus on at least one point: U.S. healthcare is in crisis. The cost of healthcare is on the rise, and over 25% of U.S. citizens can't afford healthcare coverage. Health insurance firms (i.e., payers), and hospitals and physicians (i.e. providers), agree the business of healthcare must change. Both payers and providers are looking for new ways to dramatically lower the cost of care, while improving the overall quality of care. Sounds ambitious, doesn't it? Well, technology is proving to be a critical lynchpin in the healthcare sector's success at meeting these objectives.

This month's column focuses on two growing mobile solutions for the provider sector: mobile rounding and mobile charge capture. These applications are the perfect companion for the physician who is on the go! Hospitals are truly going mobile, installing highly-secure, wireless, private LANs. What's the motivation? It's simple, read on...

Motivation for mobile

The healthcare sector--payers and providers alike--are information generating machines. And more so than other types of business, these organizations must archive this patient data for a long time in order to meet regulatory storage requirements and lower the risk of liabilities. Providers must have complete, detailed, and accurate records of all health events and responses to those events.

There are a few serious problems to solve. First, there's the problem of making sure all the data gets into the hospital's central information system. With doctors, clinicians, and nurses running from patient to patient, patient data--and hospital services data--simply fails to be captured consistently.

Secondly, there's the problem of efficiency. Care providers need to have all the patient data at hand in order to determine the next appropriate action in the care plan. Lab data, test results, prescription history, etc. must be available for review in tandem. And, often it isn't.

This means that the data must be manually collected and compiled prior to making an assessment or diagnosis. This takes time and lowers the overall productivity of everyone in the caregiver chain.

Finally, there's the problem of data accuracy. Forms, sheets of paper, and pencils don't check the data as it's committed to the record. Furthermore, the written patient data has to be transcribed for electronic capture in the central information system. Lack of data validation and structured data entry create the opportunity for incomplete and erroneous data. Even more data errors can crop up during data reentry as health information is transcribed from the handwritten paper form to the electronic entry for the central repository.