The speed and efficiency afforded to us by mobile apps has revolutionized how we experience the world. Most of us can remember when making a dinner reservation for a date was a multistep process that required looking up a restaurant’s phone number, calling in the early afternoon (before dinner service started), mentioning our preference (indoor or patio seating, booth or table), waiting while the host or hostess looked for availability and then leaving contact information. Times have changed. Apps such as Open Table have revolutionized how we get things done. Now, using a simple voice command, you can activate your smartphone and book a reservation at any time.
Commanding your phone to book you a dinner reservation when you’re driving home from work is not as imperative as accessing the medical record of a patient with a head wound who has just arrived to a trauma center via Mercy Flight. Yet, in the case of the former, the technology has been user-optimized and is available for various devices and platforms, which begs the question: Why are we accepting such disparity when it comes to usability of and accessibility to information transmission in health IT?
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line
As we move toward integrated delivery networks (IDNs) and accountable care organizations (ACOs), the need for real-time patient information across clinics and facilities is becoming even more critical, and the cost of information delays can be the difference between life and death. If the patient flown to the trauma center was also recently prescribed anti-coagulants, the care teams on duty need to know this vital information, and real-time documentation and health information exchange is the best way to ensure the patient receives the right treatment as quickly as possible.
While technology can be a great time saver in our day-to-day activities, physicians have had to temper their expectations when it comes to some of these efficiencies. Health IT regulations are not going to ease, and clinicians are increasingly being asked to do more in less time. They need tools that help them quickly accomplish the administrative tasks on their “to do” lists so they can spend more time providing care to their patients. For this reason, we are seeing an uptick in adoption rates for speech-driven, mobile electronic health record (EHR) apps. By providing clinicians with access to their patients’ medical records via their smartphones and tablets, and layering in the ability to securely dictate notes on these devices, providers can ensure that their patients are being treated based on the most up-to-date information.
Case in point
A streamlined approach to health IT is exactly what Infirmary Health was looking to provide their physicians. As Alabama’s largest non-government healthcare team, the organization treats more than 100,000 patients annually across multiple hospitals and healthcare facilities. Because of this geographical expanse, it is not uncommon for several physicians and various care teams to follow a patient’s care, however, that means those patient notes can be delayed in the dictation queue, leading to out-of-date records. In order to ensure their clinicians are able to deliver quality care and avoid potential patient safety issues that could result from delayed medical information, Infirmary Health chose to provide their physicians with mobile access to their EHRs.
The ability to securely access patient records on smartphones and tablets was a game changer for physicians who were able to dictate notes directly into the charts, which is a workflow they are already accustomed to on their desktop computers. With no important patient information delayed in transcription queues, the care coordination improved – a direct benefit to the patients – and the organization saw a rapid adoption of the technology.
Consumer apps have been designed with the intent of providing a service to their users, which is exactly the philosophy we need to adopt in health IT. Although we may still be a few years away from seeing health IT work as seamlessly as Open Table, from a usability perspective, developers and experienced designers are creating smarter interfaces that intuitively align themselves with a user’s preferences. We know what works and what does not, and it is time for us to start asking more of our technology in healthcare.