The future of healthcare delivery is up in the air.
Literally, it’s in a cloud.
The delivery of healthcare is rapidly transitioning to an increasingly wireless world where mobile applications and web experiences will transform the ways providers, patients, payers, consumers and other key stakeholders communicate with each other.
An evolving paradigm shift to a new way of delivering healthcare information and services had everyone talking during the annual Summit of the Southeast meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), which was held in Nashville.
Many of the 700 HIMSS attendees joined Nashville Health Care Council members on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at the Opryland Hotel for a luncheon panel discussion focused on the possibilities and challenges of incorporating wireless healthcare into existing systems. The event’s presenting sponsor was Healthcare Management Systems, and the supporting sponsor was Cumberland Consulting Group.
A diverse panel of experts representing hospital services, mobile application development, telecommunications and digital document management shared their firsthand perspectives on foreseeable changes as web experiences and mobile apps become more prevalent in the healthcare delivery arena.
Health Care Council President Caroline Young said, “Nashville has a proven track record of unparalleled expertise in both clinical healthcare services and in information technology development. Our community is uniquely positioned to offer innovative and credible mobile solutions to aid in this wireless transformation.”
Moderated by HIMSS Executive Vice President Carla Smith, the panel, “An Unwired World: Implications on the Delivery of Care,” included speakers Chris Cartter, general manager of MeYou Health; Chad Harris, president of the Healthcare Provider Solutions Group at ACS, a Xerox Company; Paul McRae, executive director of AT&T Healthcare Emerging technologies; and Divya Shroff, MD, FHM, chief clinical transformation officer and vice president of the Clinical Service Group at HCA, whose role is to support development and innovation and provide clinical vision as HCA broadens its position in electronic health records nationwide for both the inpatient and outpatient arenas. There was broad consensus among the panelists that the move to wireless healthcare has the potential to reduce costs significantly.
Harris noted, “With the government and other stakeholders more aligned around using health data, technology providers are now offering cutting-edge tools that take information management and clinical administration to a new level of efficiency and accuracy at a lower cost.”
Cartter said, “Patient and consumer engagement are key factors in changing behaviors and improving health. Mobile and web experiences successfully encourage individuals to get involved in their own well-being through the technology they enjoy and are comfortable with.”
“There has been a complete transformation in the way we communicate,” McCrae added, “and in the way we expect to be communicated with by peers and patients. Increased mobile usage in diverse populations and age groups will go hand-in-hand with an increased demand for mobile healthcare delivery.”
Noting that “in early 2011, there were almost 70 million wireless devices in the United States and a million-and-a-half users had daily access to healthcare information,” Smith asked the panel, “How is your organization going to use this information?”
Shroff said that HCA has made a multi-factorial, critical decision that allows access to patient charts from a distance, giving physicians the ability to capture targets more efficiently. “HCA’s mission to provide quality patient care is being met in part by enabling physicians and ancillary clinicians to access vital real-time patient information remotely.” She continued, “We are also using wireless applications to provide patients the data they need to make important decisions about their care.”
In Cartter’s division, which was spun out of Healthways, employees are charged with creating web and mobile apps for health and well-being. MeYou Health has taken 11 products that they developed to the market.
“This is a fascinating time … one for opening eyes and ears – and closing mouths … an opportunity to ‘not assume,'” McRae observed. “You have to be careful with data information when you create technology that allows people to disconnect from geography. You cannot confuse data with information.”
Shroff noted that statistics show physicians could eliminate 10-30 percent of office visits if they had mobile access and could then focus on better time management. Often it is a question of how comfortable the physician is with technology that is already available.
She added, “The joke around HCA is the question … ‘When will we get iLab coats with more pockets to handle all the devices that we need to use regularly?'”
Cartter added that it is important to be aware of the app’s audience. He observed, “A lot of apps aren’t very good.” He continued, “It is the applications that are key for us – it is an opportunity to connect with people in your life.”
Stressing the importance of thinking carefully about security and privacy and all that means, Harris observed, “The rules are different, and what we have to think about carefully is that enablement is opening up different sets for consideration – for instance, how to ensure that data isn’t exposed; how to cut things off when you leave an area.” He continued, noting the challenge is to adopt and embrace the technology and “get comfortable with information passing through the air.”
McRae said at AT&T, this is a year of emphasis on mobile technology and creating an interaction between the app and the patient’s medical home. He said the 77 million people expected to retire this year are the people who will need more attention, especially in the areas of diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Technology becomes the focus to handle this tidal wave. For instance, by making the data useful, 2.4 physicians could cover what it now takes four to do.
“The challenge is to train employees to use technology that works with the flow of information to and from technology,” he added.
Shroff concluded the panel’s discussion by asking, “At the end of the day, how easy is it to enter data and understand it?” And noting, “If we can build rules around technology, we must keep the end user in mind.”
She pointed out, “It takes a village to take care of patients. We can have good outcomes with healthier patients who are not in the hospital.”